In exchange for doing his job, the Speaker of the House lost his job. Late last week, with the end of the fiscal year approaching and no viable budget deal having been prepared to keep the government open, John Boehner, the 61st Speaker of the House, decided to resign at the end of October. He’s devoted nearly a quarter century of distinguished service in the House to the American people.
Ironically, having freed himself from the wrath of the right wing of his own party, the Speaker was able to get a continuing resolution passed with 91 Republican votes and 186 Democratic votes. This legislation keeps our government open and funded until December 11.
Before you think, “I’m not wasting five minutes of hunting season thinking about how Congress can’t get its act together,” consider taking five minutes to urge your members of Congress to follow Boehner’s lead. Because by setting his resignation for the end of October, Boehner has created a month-long open season for compromise. The Speaker is free of the constraints of party politics, if he chooses to be. He could craft a budget deal with Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the President and rely on votes from across the ideological spectrum of the House to pass it.
Before you think, “Well that’s nice, but why should sportsmen care?”—consider these three infographics. The first shows federal funding for conservation as a percentage of the federal budget:
In the last 37 years, funding for conservation as a percentage of the federal budget has been cut in half. This is the money that pays for habitat protection and improvement on Forest Service land, National Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management acres, and private lands enrolled in Natural Resource Conservation Service programs. Quality habitat creates quality hunting and fishing opportunities, and if this trend line continues to drop, we will lose both.
This next graph shows where your tax dollars go:
That’s right—only one percent of the money you pay in taxes goes toward conservation. Investments in conservation didn’t create our budget deficit and cutting investments in conservation won’t fix our budget deficit. In fact cutting conservation would likely increase our annual budget deficit, because federal investments in conservation have a great return on investment. That one percent of the federal budget that funds our national forests, wildlife refuges, and parks generates $646 billion in annual consumer spending on outdoor recreation.
That’s more than the country spends on gas or pharmaceuticals:
So take five minutes to contact your members of Congress. Tell them to fill their tag during compromise season and stock conservation’s freezer with red meat: a budget deal that invests in fish, wildlife, public access, and your best days afield. Remind them of the dividends—your green going to the outfitters, retailers, gas stations, hotels, corner diners, and all the other American businesses that are a part of your hunting and fishing experiences. Your future seasons depend on it.