Mary Beth Beetham, Director of Legislative Affairs
I have been writing the last few months about the possible impacts on wildlife programs if Congress and the President failed to reach a deal to avert the fiscal cliff and the automatic spending cuts that it would trigger. Well, as you have undoubtedly seen in the news, Congress did pass a deal and the President has signed it into law. But the deal has both good news and bad news for wildlife.
The good news is that the deal has, for now, avoided the automatic cuts that would have been devastating to programs that protect endangered species, national wildlife refuges, forests and other habitat, migratory birds and species of global importance — all of the programs we have been talking about over the last few months. Programs vital to the many species that Defenders is constantly working to protect.
Now the bad news. First, the deal only delayed the automatic cuts for a few months. Congress and the President must still reach an overall agreement on the budget and how to reduce the deficit in order to prevent the cuts from kicking in two months from now, in March. Second, as part of the deal to put off the deep, automatic cuts, the agreement locked in some smaller cuts for the next two years. We know that they will take place, but we will likely not know until the end of March exactly which programs will be affected even in the first year.
What does all this mean? All of the programs that protect wildlife — all of which are already very inadequately funded — are still on the chopping block. We will continue to work very hard to oppose any further cuts to wildlife conservation, and we ask you to continue to reach out to your elected officials in Washington, DC and tell them to stand up in support of wildlife and oppose further cuts to programs that protect creatures who cannot speak for themselves.