Thursday, October 27, 2011

Report from National Wildlife Federation Warns of Super Congress Cuts to Michigan Parks

I'll take any excuse to post a picture from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The National Wildlife Federation wants to remind us that some of Michigan's greatest parks and tourist destinations are at risk from big cuts from Super Congress. Just another something to think about when the howling begins...

Cuts to federal conservation programs will have negative impacts on a key Michigan tourism destination and several environmentally sensitive areas, according to a report released Thursday.

Efforts to craft a federal budget in tough economic times have resulted in disproportionate cuts in conservation spending in recent years, according the National Wildlife Federation. Congress is currently waiting on the recommendations of a bi-partisan committee charged with coming up with suggestions to trim the deficit by means outside the typical federal budgeting process.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City is managed by the National Park Service. According to the National Wildlife Federation, cuts to the service's funding could have dire economic repercussions there as well as other sites such as Isle Royale National Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

"If this federal funding is slashed, the management of these parks will suffer and visitors will no longer be able to enjoy the use of these facilities," the report reads. "Tourism will decline, negatively impacting the area, especially those who are dependent on income from tourists and recreational visitors. The deterioration of our Great Lakes parks would negatively impact all Michiganders."

The full report takes a look at other sites across the nation, and points out that conservation efforts recently sustained a 30% cut in funding, while other discretionary spending only saw 7%. If the Joint Committee fails to reach agreement, across-the-board cuts could devastate these parks and the tourism jobs and dollars that go with them. The NWF also looks at the damage that cuts to both the Clean Water State Revolving Funds and the U.S. Forestry Service would do to our state.

Nationwide, we are looking at some pretty big numbers:

A new economic study demonstrates that the great outdoors and historic preservation generate a conservative estimate of more than $1 trillion in total economic activity and support 9.4 million jobs each year. The outdoor recreation industry alone contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supporting more than 6 million jobs and $49 billion in federal tax revenues. Grants issued under the Clean Air Act have had a direct impact on the health and welfare of millions of Americans: a report issued by EPA in 2010 estimated that the law has prevented 160,000 premature deaths, 130,000 heart attacks, 13 million lost workdays and 1.7 million asthma attacks.

I would hope that if this happens, states will step up and do what they can to keep these national treasures up and running. Seeing as how most state budgets are still underwater at this point though, that could be wishful thinking.

Are we really going to do this, America? The NWF mentions closing some loopholes to maintain funding, but you know how that goes...