In my college days, when the world seemed to revolve around duck hunting and beer, my academic motto might have been: There is no minute like the last minute. In what I suspect was not a unique situation, I would regularly wait until just hours before a major assignment to get down to business. Having spent the last decade on Capitol Hill, I can confidently say that Congress is motivated in the same kind of way.
Deadlines have become the sine qua non of 21st century Washington. Without them, Congress can be counted on to achieve very little of real substance, but with a deadline bearing down on them, Congress can often be counted on to engage in a flurry of productivity. But, unlike most procrastinating college students, Congress can—and does—extend their deadlines.
The latest batch of Congressional negotiations are going on right now over an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016, otherwise known as the legislation that will keep the government funded and functioning through October 2016. Like so much that moves through the federal legislature, there’s an opportunity for some very good things to happen, as well as some very bad things, and the TRCP is on the front lines making sure sportsmen’s conservation priorities are well heard. Here’s what we’re parrying for and against:
No-Brainer: Conservation Funding
Any appropriations bill needs to properly fund the conservation programs that sportsmen care about most, like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the State Wildlife Grants Program, and healthy land-management budgets at the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service. Funding is the whole purpose of an omnibus appropriations bill, so Congress has to get those right for sportsmen.
Keep These Riders Off the ‘Bus
Because Congress only has so many must-pass legislative vehicles—see what we did there?—like this one, it seems that everyone in Washington is trying to get some policy priority tacked on to catch a ride to the president’s desk. TRCP thinks that some of these potential additions, including a long-awaited fix for the financially-backwards practice of fire borrowing and a potential reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, are good things that we’d support. But adding language to delay sagebrush conservation on national public lands or to undo the Clean Water Act rulemaking that protects headwater streams and wetlands would be a non-starter, and as such, we’ve strongly opposed their inclusion. We won’t support any deal that sells out years’ worth of sportsmen’s efforts to achieve good conservation outcomes.
Pull Up a Chair
One of my favorite quotes, “If you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu,” is particularly apt as this budget negotiation plods towards what we hope is a positive conclusion. TRCP and many of our partners are at the negotiating table around the clock at this time of year, advocating for what works for America’s hunters and anglers, and opposing what doesn’t. Rest assured you’ll hear more from us in the days ahead.