Eyes on Washington week ending 03.17.17

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On his first day in office, Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Department of Interior signed two orders that swiftly reaffirmed his allegiance to the sportsmen community. One order aims to create more access to public lands for hunters and anglers—the other calls for more emphasis on wildlife conservation.

However, another one of Zinke’s priorities is energy development. Zinke has supported oil and gas drilling and mineral extraction on public lands. In his confirmation hearing, he said, “President-elect Trump has declared energy dominance to be a strategic economic and foreign policy goal of the United States and that he intends to unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves.” Zinke has already opened 73 million offshore acres in the Gulf of Mexico for leasing. In the rural West, accelerated energy development could do irreparable harm to wildlife migration corridors and habitat.

Whether Zinke is able to encourage wildlife conservation will also depend on Interior’s new budget. The Trump administration reportedly wants to cut 10 percent of Interior’s budget for fiscal year 2018.

Meanwhile the Trump Administration is proposing a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency‘s budget, eliminating its climate change programs and trimming back core initiatives aimed at protecting air and water quality, according to budget documents released last Thursday.

The White House’s proposed 2018 budget for the agency comes as Trump seeks to clear away regulations he claims are hobbling certain U.S. industries such as oil drillers and coal miners. The proposed cuts are a starting point in negotiations with Congress, and could be tempered.

The proposal would eliminate 3,200 EPA employees, or 19 percent of the current workforce, and effectively eliminate former President Barack Obama’s initiatives to combat climate change by cutting funding for the agency’s signature Clean Power Plan aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

It would also eliminate climate change research and international climate change programs. Together, the cuts to climate change initiatives at the agency would eliminate some $100 million in spending.

The Senate Agriculture Committee set March 23rd as the date for the Department of Agriculture Secretary nominee Sonny Perdue’s confirmation hearing.

The former two-term Republican governor of Georgia was announced as Trump’s pick to head the USDA on January 19th.

According to AgDay contacts in Washington D.C., there’s was a delay in Perdue’s necessary paperwork which includes financial history, ethics disclosures and a background check from the FBI.

Without those requirements, the Senate Agricultural Committee was unable to schedule a confirmation hearing; Perdue’s “necessary paperwork” was released by the White House on March 9th.

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March for Science

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The March for Science is scheduled to take place in Washington, DC on “Earth Day,” Saturday April 22, 2017.

Jonathan Berman, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Health and Science Center in San Antonio and lead organizer of the March said, “Yes this is a protest but it’s not a political protest. The people making decisions are in Washington and they are the people we are trying to reach with the message: You should listen to the evidence.”

WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society will be participating in the March for Science. If you would like to join our pride on April 22nd, please visit our On the Prowl or Lionesses for Wildness pages for meet up location and times.

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