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Sportsman's Group Urges Congress to Hold Line on Wildlife Funding

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A group of hunters, anglers and conservationists wants Congress to maintain federal outdoor funding levels in 2017. (iStockphoto)
A group of hunters, anglers and conservationists wants Congress to maintain federal outdoor funding levels in 2017. (iStockphoto)
March 4, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. - Access to good hunting, fishing and hiking lands has been shrinking for some sportsmen in recent years, and one conservation group is calling on Congress to take action.

Last December, lawmakers laid out a budget plan that earned praise from conservationists for increasing dollars for agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Paul Wilkins, chief conservation officer for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said his group has sent a letter to House and Senate leaders, asking that they keep the funding the same as they consider the 2017 budget plan.

"We wanted to make sure that Congress isn't diverting money from fish and wildlife habitat and sportsmen's access to other issues," he said. "So, that's really the rationale for the letter is to make sure that Congress holds the line on the good work that they did in December."

Wilkins said maintaining funding levels is better for wildlife, and for hunters and anglers.

According to the partnership, federal conservation dollars have been cut in half since 1977. The group also pointed out that the Fish and Wildlife Service has cut about 12 percent of its workforce in the past five years. Wilkins said the lack of funding has other negative consequences, as well.

"Around 20 percent of hunters, and just slightly less than that of anglers, had reported losing access in the last year to a spot that they use to hunt or fish," he said. "So, it's clearly a challenge out there for sportsmen."

Wilkins argued that carrying over the budget increases from 2016 will help sportsmen continue contributing to the country's $646 billion outdoor recreation economy.

The letter is online at trcp.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - SD