Federal Funding Offers Gains for Western Water and Bird Conservation

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In March, Congress passed and President Biden signed a federal spending bill that will fund the government until September 30, 2022. Overall, the funding is a win for conservation and provides helpful increases for programs that fight climate change, build community resilience and protect birds and wildlife. Compared to four years of drastic funding cuts implemented from 2016 to 2020, this bill sets the stage for a positive trend in federal funding for the environment.

A silver lining is the (at least) $1.25 million included for saline lake science, a key Audubon priority. In addition to this seed funding, Audubon hopes Congress will work to pass the bipartisan Great Basin States Salt Lakes Ecosystems Program Act and additional funding for this critical assessment and monitoring program.

For the Colorado River, the expense bill is a bit mixed. The Cooperative Watershed Management Program received only $5 million, which is a slight increase from the $4.25 million received last year, but well below our request of $20 million. dollars. However, this program received a huge boost in the IIJA – $200 million over five years. And the relatively new Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program received just $100,000 in fiscal year (FY)22, but will receive $250 million over five years in IIJA funding. These programs fund multi-benefit projects that support rivers, wetlands, communities and water users and we hope they will continue to receive additional funding in the years to come. Audubon urges Congress to continue increasing annual funding for programs like these. Coupled with historic amounts of funding in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the river is receiving an influx of funding over the next few years to address current drought and water challenges. .

We were also pleased to see that financing the operation of the Yuma desalination plant was prohibited by the omnibus bill. Audubon remains opposed to the operation of the Yuma desalination plant and encourages Congress to continue to prohibit appropriations for this purpose, as it would decimate irreplaceable bird habitat in the Colorado River Delta, particularly in the Cienega de Santa Clara. And, the Lower Colorado River Basin received $25 million to implement Drought Contingency Plans (DCPs); this essential funding is in addition to the IIJA’s $250 million, which demonstrates the continued interest in ensuring the effective implementation of these plans.

For the Department of Agriculture, several important conservation programs have been fully funded (meaning no cuts) – including the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and the Incentives Program to the quality of the environment (EQIP). RCPP promotes innovative regional approaches to improving the health of working landscapes and rivers with multi-benefit projects driven by partners. EQIP encourages the voluntary application of land use practices to maintain or improve the condition of natural resources, including grassland health, water quality and wildlife habitat. Both of these help support the overall health of watersheds and build the resilience of these ecosystems.

Finally, the FY22 spending bill included congressional-directed spending plans (formerly known as appropriations) for the first time in many years. Audubon supported many project requests and was delighted to see $2.546 million for a Salton Sea research project, guaranteed by Representative Vargas. And, Rep. Stanton got $1.841 million for the Tres Rios project in Arizona, which Audubon also backed.

Audubon looks forward to the implementation of this funding for on-the-ground conservation activities, habitat restoration projects, and community resilience efforts. Federal dollars are essential to combat climate change and the ongoing drought and aridification in the West. Watershed protection protects people and birds, especially in the West.

Looking ahead, President Biden released his FY23 budget on March 28, which kicked off the supply process for the remainder of that fiscal year. While the budget is just a statement of priorities and Congress will decide the actual spending amounts, Audubon was thrilled to see investments in clean energy research, a civil conservation corps, and equity initiatives. to help historically marginalized communities.

The budget allocates $1.4 billion to the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees major western waterways. This funding would include $2.254 million for the Cooperative Watershed Management Program and $500,000 for the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program. Audubon urges Congress to fully fund these programs at $20 million and $15 million, respectively. Audubon is also supporting $5 million for the Saline Lakes Science Program at USGS, to build on the initial investment made last year. We will work with our partners to support additional FY23 conservation programs and projects and help continue this positive funding trend.

Audubon urges the administration and Congress to continue increasing funding amounts for programs that restore habitat, build community resilience, fight climate change and its devastating effects, and protect places where people and birds live. need.

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