Salazar rips GOP push for deep conservation cuts

The House GOP spending proposal unveiled Wednesday would slash almost 80 percent from Land and Water Conservation Fund programs in particular, which Salazar called “shortsighted” and alleged would “jeopardize the conservation legacy and future of the United States of America.”

Salazar spoke in Michigan about the addition of land to the River Raisin National Battlefield Park and enhancements to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

“Conservation doesn’t know the difference between Republicans and Democrats,” he said, taking pains to argue that the proposal would harm outdoor industries that he called an economic engine.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been a keystone of modern day conservation in America,” Salazar said, alleging the GOP-proposed cuts “will set back the conservation arc that we have been on for a long time.”

Under the GOP plan, funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund would drop to $62 million, $256 million below current spending and $838 million below the White House fiscal year 2012 request, according to House Appropriations Committee Democrats.

Overall, the House GOP’s Interior spending plan, which lawmakers will begin shepherding through the Appropriations Committee this week, would provide $9.86 billion for Interior, a $720 million cut from current spending.

It includes cuts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and other Interior agencies.

The plan is part of a wider bill that would also cut Environmental Protection Agency funding and thwart several EPA policies.

Senior Republicans called the proposal — including the cuts to conservation land acquisitions — part of their efforts to rein in what they call out-of-control federal spending.

“Americans are sick to death of excessive government spending and regulation that is pushing us further and further away from economic recovery,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) in a statement. He said the bill “pinpoints and cuts extraneous, duplicative and unnecessary spending.”

But Salazar cast the GOP proposals as extreme while arguing that Interior has acknowledged the need for spending cuts with more sensible reductions.

He repeatedly cited the agency’s efforts to cut $500 million over 10 years by reforming information technology at Interior, as well as other cuts.