The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Christopher LancetteCommunications Director
202 429

David MoultonClimate Change and Conservation Funding Director
202 429

'Change' Delivered: Obama Makes Down Payment on Environmental Legacy

Appropriations bill gives boost to refuges, forests, endangered species and more


President Barack Obama today made a down payment on his
environmental legacy - and his promises to bring change to the White
House -- by signing the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The
legislation passed by the Senate on Tuesday provides a desperately
needed funding boost for a variety of programs that will nourish public
lands and natural resources.

The funding package invests funds
in a variety of objectives that include creating green jobs, investing
in green energy, restoring degraded ecosystems, protecting endangered
species, preserving natural resources, and slowing the increase of
global warming.

"President Obama's signature on this
appropriations bill today replenishes the public savings account in our
natural resources," said David Moulton, The Wilderness Society's
director of climate change and conservation funding. "When we safeguard
our public lands, we maintain our best protection against water
shortages, air pollution and severe weather disruptions. This president
and Congress did the right thing by stopping the slide into ecological
bankruptcy the previous administration put us on."

The bill
that Obama signed today makes dramatic improvements over Bush-year
budgets that favored resource exploitation rather than conservation.
Key highlights include:

* National Wildlife Refuges: Every
state in the nation has a wildlife refuge and can benefit from the
$462.8 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System in the FY09
funding proposal. Refuges attract more than 40 million visitors
annually, infuse $1.7 billion to local economies nationwide, and
generate 27,000 private sector jobs. With an increase of $28.7 million
over last year's enacted levels, this much-needed investment will help
restore many of the operations and maintenance projects that Refuge
System was forced to reduce or eliminate in response to years of
funding cuts and shortfalls.

* The National Landscape
Conservation System: It is slated to receive $60.8 million, or a $6.6
million increase over last year's bill. This increase would be critical
to restoring some of the needed funding for project backlogs and
necessary restoration work. These additional funds would sustain and
stabilize invaluable natural and cultural resources in the Conservation

* National forests and crumbling roads: Congress has
once again identified the need to address roads that are causing
environmental harm on our forests by increasing funding for the Legacy
Roads and Trails program. Additionally, the National Forest System is
receiving an additional $45 million over FY 2008, which should fund
important programs like monitoring, fish and wildlife, and recreation.

Wildfire suppression: Congress has recognized the need to increase
funding for fire suppression, which will reduce the need for the Forest
Service to transfer money away from other vital programs and services
so that it can pay the tab for fighting wildfires.

* National
Park Service: Our natural American icons need funding to maintain staff
and rebuild crumbling infrastructure and Congress delivered. This focus
allows the Park Service to steadily recover, gain efficiencies and
refocus itself to effectively meet future challenges. It is crucial
that we reinvest and revitalize our national parks by their hundredth

Learn More: Visit for more detailed analysis on each of the programs above.

Since 1935, The Wilderness Society has led the conservation movement in wilderness protection, writing and passing the landmark Wilderness Act and winning lasting protection for 107 million acres of Wilderness, including 56 million acres of spectacular lands in Alaska, eight million acres of fragile desert lands in California and millions more throughout the nation.