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Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, as one of the former cochairs and leaders of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, the largest, bipartisan, bicameral caucus in this Congress, I reluctantly rise in strong opposition to this Interior appropriations bill.

Mr. Chairman, this bill falls short on so many different levels--especially our responsibility to future generations to be good stewards of the public lands, the vital natural resources, and the wildlife that we have within our borders.

But don't take my word for it, Mr. Chairman. We have had a tradition in this place for many years of having strong, bipartisan support for reasonable, sensible, land and water conservation programs. That's why earlier this month, a coalition of over 640 outdoor recreation entities sent a letter to each of our offices, including the Congressional leadership, expressing their deep concern and dismay over the funding cuts proposed in this appropriation bill.

This letter was signed by entities such as the Boone and Crockett Club, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Wild Turkey Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Trout Unlimited, and it was also signed by the president of The Wilderness Society, Bill Meadows, and a board member of the Civil War Trust, John Nau. I would like to read that letter at this time.

"We are a broad coalition of organizations representing millions of members with very diverse political backgrounds and areas of interest united behind a shared belief that natural resource conservation, outdoor recreation, and historic preservation, and investments in them, are vital to the future of our great Nation.

"Like you, we are concerned about our Nation's fiscal health. The Nation faces unsustainable future fiscal deficits, which must be addressed. As part of the overall solution to our deficit challenges, we know that conservation, recreation, and historic preservation programs will not and should not be exempted from scrutiny. We are willing to engage in a process to find further savings in spending and review the economic and budgetary benefits of critical conservation, outdoor recreation, and historic preservation programs.

"The Federal budget cannot and should not be balanced disproportionately on the backs of conservation, outdoor recreation, and preservation. Doing so will impose on the future generations whose well-being depends

on the conservation and preservation of our common natural and historic resources.

"As a diverse community of taxpayers and voters who care about natural resource conservation, outdoor recreation, and historic preservation, we stand ready to work with you on serious efforts to address our Nation's economic and fiscal challenges, as they relate to investments in, and tough choices about, the programs we care about. We urge this Congress to address the Federal deficit while still investing in critical conservation, recreation, and historic preservation programs in 2012.''

Mr. Chairman, these groups realize, as many of us realize too, this is more than just being good stewards of the land and doing right by future generations. Investment in these vital programs is crucial for economic development and job creation in this country. The Outdoor Industry Foundation has issued a survey from year to year showing the economic impact of many of these conservation programs on outdoor recreation activities. They found that outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supports 6 1/2 million private sector jobs, one out of every 20 jobs, and stimulates 8 percent of consumer spending.

In Wisconsin, my home State, hunting and fishing alone supports 57,000 jobs, and $400 million in State revenue. Sportsmen spend $3.1 billion annually, which helps stimulate the Wisconsin economy and other States.

Mr. Chairman, the irony in all this is that these organizations and these programs have been giving at the idol of deficit reduction for some time. In fact, over the last 30 years, American investment in parks, wildlife, clean water, and clean air has fallen from 1.7 percent of overall Federal budget to less than 0.6 percent. So throughout the years, there has been a continual reduction in funding for these programs. The irony is that for many of these programs, for every public dollar used, it is leveraged to draw in more private sector dollars. This too will be in great jeopardy with the dismantling of these programs. These aren't programs you can just turn on and off with a spigot. You need a continuity of care to keep them going. With funding reductions of this magnitude, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain that continuity of care. Whether it is to clean water, clean air, to wildlife preservation and enhancement, all of these programs are under a direct assault with this Interior appropriations bill.

With the Land and Water Conservation Fund, an 80 percent proposed cut, the irony with this program is that it is funded by oil royalties. It has been a grand bargain that has been used in the past to allow development of oil on public lands.

I encourage my colleagues to vote "no'' on this appropriations bill. We can do better than this. We have to do better.


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