House Passes Interior & Environment Appropriations Bill 272 - 155
Great Bay Refuge and Ossipee Pine Barrens to Receive Funds
Washington, DC - Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) today voted to pass a bill containing funding for two top environmental preservation projects in New Hampshire. The Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2643) passed the House today by a bipartisan majority of 272 to 155 and included measures to protect the Ossipee Pine Barrens and ensure adequate staffing for the Great Bay Wildlife Refuge.
"We have a duty to protect our environment for ourselves and for future generations," said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. "This bill will help clean up pollution, combat global climate change, and guarantee that all Americans have clean water to drink. The bill will also bring New Hampshire tax dollars back to New Hampshire to protect local treasures like the Great Bay Wildlife Refuge and the Ossipee Pine Barrens."
Shea-Porter secured an earmark to the bill of $2.38 million to support a project to conserve the Ossipee Pine Barrens, one of the last remaining ecosystems of its kind. The funding will come from the U.S. Forest Service's Federal Forest Legacy Program and will allow the State of New Hampshire to acquire conservation easements on 2,264 acres of previously unprotected land.
During debate on the bill yesterday, Shea-Porter also spoke out against funding cuts that have threatened New Hampshire's Great Bay Wildlife Refuge and she called upon the Congress to guarantee that the bill would include funding for the embattled seacoast wildlife sanctuary.
"The staffing shortages plaguing our Wildlife Refuges have been brought on by years of under funding and a lack of commitment to ensuring that these pristine lands are kept safe, secure, and properly maintained," said Shea-Porter in her statement on the House floor. "We will need to do more if we want to alleviate the strain put on refuges like the Great Bay Wildlife Refuge along the eastern shore of New Hampshire."
In recent years, the Great Bay Wildlife Refuge has been forced to cut back from four full time staff to only one. Current funding levels, if left unchanged, could force the Refuge to eliminate that position as well, leaving the sanctuary largely un-staffed and unprotected. The Great Bay Wildlife Refuge is visited by roughly 60,000 people each year and is home to a number of endangered and protected species including the American Bald Eagle.
In response to Shea-Porter's question, Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment Chairman Norm Dicks clarified the intent of the bill, saying: "The Committee believes it is important to address the shortfalls in staffing around the nation, and we have provided the largest operational increase in the history of the Refuge System to do so. We have also included language directing consideration to those areas, like Great Bay, that have pressing shortfalls and needs."
Other Provisions of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill:
The 2008 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill also includes new resources and support for environmental and conservation programs including:
· Funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which supports projects that improve drinking water quality in communities across America.
· Sewer and Water Grants to support the construction and improvement of water systems in local communities.
· New resources for the Superfund hazardous waste clean-up program.
The legislation makes addressing global climate change a key priority, boosting federal investment in climate change research at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Interior Department by 53 percent. Additionally, the bill responds to the Supreme Court's April global warming decision by compelling the Environmental Protection Agency to begin developing a process for regulating greenhouse gases.
Finally, the bill includes new resources to support the preservation and protection of America's natural treasures. In addition to making the improvement of National Parks a top priority, the legislation rejects proposed cuts to the National Forest Service and supports wildfire preparedness and suppression programs.
The Text of Congresswoman Shea-Porter's Statement Regarding Great Bay:
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for your leadership on this bill; in particular, for your strong support of increased funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System, which protects our valuable natural resources and wildlife, and maintains more than 96 million acres of land across the country.
I also want to thank Ranking Member Tiahrt, and the entire Interior and Environment Subcommittee, for their tireless work on this bill and, importantly, for including language and funding to help address some of the most pressing problems facing our National Wildlife Refuge System.
Mr. Chairman, the staffing shortages plaguing our Wildlife Refuges have been brought on by years of under funding and a lack of commitment to ensuring that these pristine lands are kept safe, secure, and properly maintained. The language included in the bill before us is a big step in the right direction, but I think you would agree, it is only a first step. We will need to do more if we want to alleviate the strain put on refuges like the Great Bay Wildlife Refuge, along the eastern shore of New Hampshire.
Great Bay protects a number of both federal and state protected species, including the symbol of our American freedom, the Bald Eagle. However, funding shortages have caused the Refuge System to severely cut back on staff at Great Bay over the past few years. What once was a staff of four has been reduced to one. And now, the Refuge System has announced they will be eliminating that position as early as next month. This will leave a major wildlife refuge with no full-time staff and totally unprotected for the large majority of the time. With over 60,000 visitors a year, this lack of staffing could pose a serious threat to the wildlife and ecosystem protected in Great Bay.
Mr. Chairman, I understand that there is strong language in your bill regarding the staffing shortages at Refuges across the country. May I clarify that the increased funding provided to the Wildlife Refuge System through the Operations and Management accounts is meant to help the System address these shortfalls and ensure that staff is placed where needed to protect these environments.
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