WASHINGTON—Congress passed an appropriations package for fiscal year 2023 today that includes major investments in natural climate solutions along with increased spending for critical conservation and research programs that benefit birds and people.
Audubon has long championed the Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA), which was folded into the omnibus spending package. GCSA creates voluntary carbon markets for farmers, foresters, ranchers, and other land managers. Once signed into law, it will create a new program to self-certify technical assistance providers and third-party verifiers for the agriculture and forestry sector. It will also address barriers to entry for landowners trying to access voluntary carbon markets and encourage science-guided practices.
“Recognizing the critical role that land managers play in responsible conservation and reducing emissions through natural carbon storage is essential,” said Elizabeth Gray, CEO of the National Audubon Society. “The Growing Climate Solutions Act will provide the support farmers, ranchers, foresters, and other producers need to ensure our workplaces are part of the solution for a better future for people and wildlife.”
Federal spending increased slightly for programs focused on coastal and freshwater ecosystem restoration, fisheries management, and migratory bird conservation. These include restoration initiatives in the Great Lakes, Delaware River Basin, Everglades, and other important ecosystems that benefit birds, other wildlife, and communities. US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) programs that manage migratory birds and provide grants for migratory bird conservation also saw small increases.
The Department of Energy received $10 million to invest in advances in testing and verifying technologies that help solar energy projects avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts on wildlife and ecosystems, as well as improved scientific research into avian-solar interactions.
Unfortunately, the package included a harmful policy provision regarding the Greater Sage-Grouse and missed an opportunity to invest in wildlife recovery efforts at the state level by failing to include the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA). RAWA would have helped state wildlife agencies proactively conserve vulnerable species. And while this year’s spending bill includes much-needed increases in funding for Greater Sage-Grouse conservation, it again undercuts the science by continuing to prohibit the USFWS from considering the Greater Sage-Grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“We’re really disappointed to see Congress continue to put politics before science,” he said Sara Brodnax, director of public lands policy, National Audubon Society. “The provision sets a very concerning precedent for future intervention in the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission to conserve and protect wildlife and their habitats.”
The spending package also contains parts of the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act, bipartisan legislation introduced last year that greatly expands the federal government’s ability to participate in projects in California’s Salton Sea region. Changing patterns of water use and climate warming are accelerating the evaporation of the Sea, which threatens a critical stopover for migratory birds as well as the health of hundreds of thousands of nearby residents.
“The federal government owns about 40 percent of the land in and around the Salton Sea, but its hands are tied when it comes to participating in state-run remediation projects,” said Frank Ruiz, director of Audubon California’s Salton Sea Program. “This legislation will greatly expand the Bureau of Reclamation’s ability to partner with other major landowners in the region. — state, local, and Tribal governments — to address the expanding public health and environmental crisis in the Salton Sea.”
Audubon will continue to advocate for greater investments and protections in a number of priorities for the birds, people, and places we need as the new Congress begins planning appropriations for the next fiscal year.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works across the Americas with science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities. in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world where people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.