Spring is coming early in 3/4 of national parks, according to a new study. Awesome? Not so much. As flowers bloom earlier every year, it’s disrupting the link between the wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers. In Shenandoah, an earlier spring is giving invasive plants a head start, and they’re displacing native wildflowers, leading to costly management issues.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 is a milestone in the quest for LGBT civil rights and provided momentum for a movement.
Vine Creek Ranch at Death Valley National Park. Steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
Located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, the National Park of American Samoa is the most remote unit of the National Park System and the U.S. National Park south of the Equator. The Park spreads across three islands, 9,500 acres of tropical rainforest, and 4,000 acres of ocean, including coral reefs. While remote, the islands of American Samoa, true to the meaning of the word Samoa (Islands of Sacred Earth), are welcoming and offer beautiful landscapes and centuries of culture and history.
Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to discuss our budget request for 2008. I would like to thank you, Chairman Dicks, for your support of our mission during the 2007 appropriations process. I would like to welcome you, Mr. Tiahrt, in your new role as Ranking Minority Member of the Subcommittee, as well as the other new Members including Mr. Udall, Mr. Chandler, Mr. Pastor, Ms. Emerson, and Mr. Goode.
With enactment of the FY 2007 Joint Resolution, we now have a full year appropriation of $1.3 billion. Based on direction in the Joint Resolution we have prepared a detailed operating plan for FY 2007. This was submitted to Congress on March 17. The numbers in this testimony are in comparison with the operating plan.
The Service requests a total of $2.1 billion for 2008, consisting of $1.3 billion in current appropriations and $859.4 million in permanent appropriations. The 2008 budget for current appropriations is $43.9 million below the FY 2007 enacted level.
The 2008 request strategically positions the Service to maintain strong core functions essential to the Service's mission to protect and conserve endangered species, migratory birds, and certain marine mammals and fish, as well as restoring habitat for fish and wildlife. The budget will allow the Service to continue its strong record of achievements such as the removal of the western Great Lakes population of gray wolves from the Federal list of threatened and endangered species.
To accomplish its mission, the Service seeks to do cooperative conservation in partnership with non-Federal entities such as farmers and ranchers, State and local governments, Tribes, and others.
To that end, the budget includes $291.7 million for cooperative conservation to emphasize local input and cooperative decision-making to achieve land management and resource goals.
The 2008 budget emphasizes cooperative conservation programs that maximize results. It includes an increase of $2.0 million for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program and an increase of $3.2 million for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund.
The 2008 budget eliminates funding for both the Landowner Incentive Program, a reduction of $23.7 million from 2007, and the Private Stewardship Grants program, a reduction of $7.3 million from 2007. While cooperative conservation remains a cornerstone of our resource protection mission, an evaluation of the performance of various grant and technical assistance programs indicated that other programs provide conservation benefits in a more cost-effective fashion. Species at-risk will benefit by shifting resources from these two programs to others that can demonstrate results.
Our operations account is funded at $1.035 billion, $20.6 million above the 2007 level. Key initiatives included in the budget follow.
Fixed costs are fully funded at $30.2 million. The Department defines fixed costs as increases needed for Federal pay raises; employer contributions to health benefit plans; unemployment compensation; workers compensation; GSA and non-GSA rent increases; and contributions to the Department's Working Capital Fund. Pay and benefits for the Service's employees are a significant cost component of the Service's core programs. Maintaining this dedicated cadre of professionals is essential for the uninterrupted delivery of programs.
Healthy Lands Initiative
The Healthy Lands Initiative seeks to address challenges associated with growing energy activities in the West and the potential conflicts that result at the wildlife-energy interface. The Service's budget includes a $2.0 million increase for activities in the Green River Basin of Wyoming, which is home to both critical wildlife habitat and increasing energy development and other recreational and traditional uses. As these activities increase, concerns about maintaining habitat for wildlife at the wildlife-energy interface are also increasing.
To address these challenges, the Service will work cooperatively with the Wyoming State Game and Fish Department, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other stakeholders to provide increased assistance to private landowners in the Green River Basin to improve habitat and protect species on private lands; enhance planning and consultation to ensure energy development impacts to wildlife and habitat are effectively mitigated; and avoid the listing of species. Programs with relevant increases include Candidate Conservation (+$500,000), Consultation (+$500,000), the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program (+$750,000), and the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (+$250,000).
Partners for Fish and Wildlife
In 2008, the Partners Program will use an increase of $3.3 million to continue to support the recovery of listed and candidate species and implement habitat restoration and enhancement projects in geographic focus areas identified through this year's strategic planning process.
The Partners Program fosters voluntary habitat restoration on private lands in priority focus areas with established habitat targets that will result in increased efficiencies to meet long-term goals of sustaining listed and candidate species populations. With the proposed increase, ($750,000 of which is also part of the Healthy Lands Initiative, as discussed above) the Partners Program will restore or enhance an additional 980 acres of wetlands and 2,500 acres of uplands and 14 miles of riparian habitat for the benefit of Federal Trust Species.
Refuge Habitat Restoration and Monument Funding
The Service requests $261.1 million for refuge operations, level with 2007. This total includes $600,000 to support management of the new Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, which will require a new Monument manager to oversee operations at Midway Atoll NWR and Hawaiian Islands NWR; a new permitting officer to govern issuance of permits for activities within the Monument; and a resource protection/law enforcement officer to ensure public safety and compliance with applicable regulations.
Our budget funds the law enforcement program at $57.6 million. We have proposed a plan to achieve cost savings in the wildlife inspection function by increasing import and export inspection fees. The Service has not adjusted these fees since 1996.
The fisheries program is funded at $124.8 million, an increase of $7.6 million compared to 2007. The budget includes increases for two important initiatives including $6.0 million for the National Fish Passage Program and $2.3 million for the the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.
National Fish Passage Program
A $6.0 million funding increase will support the Administration's Open Rivers Initiative (ORI), a multi-agency initiative to remove small, obsolete dams which are barriers to fish movement. The funds will enhance the program's capability to work with partners to deliver a “seamless” fish passage program across the American landscape.
The increase will enhance the Service's capability to conduct field-level fish passage project inventories, monitoring, and evaluations; provide technical assistance to our partners; increase field-level and Regional coordination capabilities; and establish inhouse, national engineering capabilities. This request will help remove over 110 additional small dams or other barriers and re-open approximately 1,300 miles and approximately 7,200 acres of stream and river habitats to fish passage.
National Fish Habitat Action Plan
This plan is a science-based, voluntary, and non-regulatory partnership that will function through the National Fish Habitat Board and a set of regional-scale Fish Habitat Partnerships to protect, restore, and enhance the nation's fish and aquatic communities through partnerships that foster fish habitat conservation and improve the quality of life for the American people. The requested increase of $2.3 million will support an additional 50 population assessments and 183 habitat assessments will be completed for native trust species, including the assessment of an additional 613 miles of stream and shoreline habitat. An additional 139 miles of stream and shoreline will be restored or enhanced to achieve habitat conditions to support species conservation.
Construction and Land Acquisition
The request for construction is $23.1 million, a reduction of $22.2 million. Proposed projects include $5.0 million for the repair and renovation of water, sewer, and electric infrastructure at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge and $2.0 million for seismic rehabilitation of buildings at Jackson National Fish Hatchery. The land acquisition account is funded at $18.0 million and proposed projects include $1.0 million for the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, the Service's highest ranking project under the Land Acquisition Priority System.
Federal Aid and Sport Fish Restoration
While they are funded as permanent appropriations, it is important to highlight that over $752.2 million will be apportioned to the states and territories for high priority fish and wildlife conservation projects. This includes $300.4 million through the Wildlife Restoration Grant Program (Pittman Robertson) and $451.8 million through the Sport Fish Restoration Grant Program (Dingell-Johnson and Wallop Breaux).
Thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning and I look forward to working with you through the appropriations process.