Montana Outdoors

Mar 30, 2011 7:22 PM by Irina Cates (KPAX News)

Sportsmen groups concerned about Congressional cuts

Some national sportsmen's organizations say Congress is taking a butcher knife to conservation and wildlife management programs, instead of using a scalpel.

Sportsmen groups are concerned about the proposed budget that could drastically cut or eliminate several programs critical to hunting, fishing, and wildlife habitat.

Some of the programs slated for dramatic cuts or elimination include the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, Farm Bill conservation programs and the Clean Water Act.

"Ultimately these kind of cuts, we feel, hurt not only our hunting and angling heritage, but also kind of hurt the local economies that have built up around hunting and angling issues, or hunting and angling sports," says Ben Lamb, Conservation Director for State/National Issue, Montana Wildlife Federation

The sportsmen groups say if these cuts go through, thousands of people could lose their jobs across the United States.

And one of the many topics of concern in the discussion is how the budget cuts would affect wetland conservation.

Ducks Unlimited officials say a recent study shows the United States loses about 80,000 acres of wetlands each year.

"As snow begins to melt in the upper Midwest, serious flooding is once again anticipated. Because so many of the wetlands that once held water on landscape have been drained, that water now flows straight to the rivers and increases flooding damages on a year to year basis," says Scott Yaich, Director of Conservation Operation, Ducks Unlimited, Inc.

The groups say activities such as hunting, fishing and bird watching bring in two to three billion dollars a year into Montana.

They also believe some of the decisions about the cuts happened really fast and there was no consultation or consideration for the outcome.

"We all realize that there is a need to balance the budget, but we don't think that going after what really amounts to about half of percent of the federal budget, is a great way to achieve these cuts," Lamb said.

Members of Congress are returning to Capitol Hill this week to negotiate the final funding resolution by next Friday.

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