From Bill Bartush - As you have already heard, the Administration's 2018 budget request (FY starting Oct 1, 2017) for the Department of the Interior has targeted investments to further national energy goals, and has proposed reductions to the 2018 budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS); as part of the larger overall USFWS budget reduction, staff and funding for the Science Applications program, which includes funding for the 22 Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, has been proposed for elimination.
The latest wrinkle in developments is that as of Monday, July 17th, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations drafted an Interior Appropriations bill (see the Full Committee Report p.19-20) that provides continued funding for “cooperative landscape conservation” at FY2017 levels. So we are working to develop planning scenarios that vary from closure to a variety of reduced, revised and re-programed LCC operations.
If the FY18 budget is passed as proposed, the USFWS will no longer be able to support the GCP LCC structure. We have no doubt that through the strong partnerships that have been forged to date, landscape conservation partnerships will continue, but certainly there will be a hole, in the form of operational support from the USFWS, to be filled. Regardless of the outcome, the USFWS remains committed to working collaboratively to share information and support conservation actions and approaches. Together, we have built a strong foundation for collaborative large-scale conservation that need not depend on any one agency's budget.
Change means opportunity!
Along with challenges come opportunities – WE ALL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY IN THIS CHANGE. The future is not the past restored! I am optimistic our strong partnership will find a way to continue and, in my opinion, probably improve our effectiveness. WE HAVE A FUTURE. It is my hope we will provide partners the information and tools to stay connected, communicate, and continue to use OUR information, tools and data platforms that WE have all developed to continue to support conservation. Let’s work together to diversify our resource base, be open to change if we think for the better, integrate and share resources better than ever before.
For now, the work of the GCP LCC and all other LCCs continues. In particular, we are moving forward with our landscape conservation design planning for the Edwards to Gulf region, as well as assisting in bringing together partners in the Chenier Plain, Rio Grande and Red River regions.
Given the uncertainty of the federal budget at this time, we are also looking at the functions and information assets that the GCP LCC has generated over the past 6 years to ensure that the time and energy our partners have put into collaboration and conservation products will continue to provide benefits should the budget be enacted as proposed. Currently, Blair Tirpak is a part of the Architecture subgroup of the national-level Data Management Working Group that is grappling with this issue. The GCP LCC has made the vast majority of its products and datasets publicly available on ScienceBase, which will continue to operate. In that respect, we are ahead of some other LCCs. We welcome your help and thoughts in this regard, and may be reaching out to you and your staff for input and ideas.
All the GCP LCC staff thank you for your amazing support and collaboration throughout the Gulf Coast Prairie region. We feel proud of the work we have collectively accomplished to date. Let us all continue to explore ways in which we can foster continued partnerships and progress toward our goals. As we move forward, be thinking of possible ways to transfer, revise or repurpose management; be thinking alternatives for funding and operations. (Bill will provide updates on the budget when we knows more - please contact Bill with any questions.)