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Too little, but not too late.

Two of my biggest passions are nature and astronomy.

As for nature: No, I'm not some nutty enviro-kook that wants to stop logging or believes that "global warming" junk science is the new religion we should all follow.

Nature is just something I admire and respect.

As such, I am a proponent of keeping our federal parks staffed and funded amply, so we can maintain and pass on these national treasures for future generations, and to protect the habitat and wildlife, some of which are totally dependent on these areas.

That's why, with some surprised disappointment , I was troubled to see the budget for the National Wildlife Refuge System for fiscal year 2009.

The total amount allotted to this agency is a paltry $398 million. That's for operation, maintenance and staffing for 596 refuges and over 96 million acres of land. To President Bush's credit, that's an increase of $12 million over last year, but it's a far cry from where it should be.

It is estimated that 565 jobs will be cut, which accounts for approximately 20% of the federal refuge staff. These cuts are going to leave 212 refuges unstaffed. Refuges that, without proper management and maintenance, will be neglected and left to degradation.

I've seen this type of needless neglect myself. One of my favorite places to visit is the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in South Jersey. It's comprised of over 43,000 acres of varying lands and habitat, with a primary function of serving as a preserve and stop over for migratory birds. Some species have only this area left in which to breed. The dilapidation due to funding cuts and staff cuts can be easily seen. Leed's Eco trail has been closed for over two years due to lack of funding to fix it, and some public restrooms have been inoperable for at least the past year. Trails are overgrown in some parts, and vandalism is a rising problem.

I can only imagine what will happen in the near future if their little budget gets chopped even more.

(For some monetary perspective, Senator Hillary Clinton requested 3.2 billion worth of earmarks for New York. 3.2 billion from just one senator. For more on these pork-barrel blank checks, go to the Earmarks page of the Office of Management and Budget. You'll be sick.)

As for astronomy, I have always had great respect for NASA and it's contribution to our knowledge of the heavens. That respect has been, however, a bit diminished as I look at it's budgetary spending goals.

NASA's 2009 budget calls for 17.9 billion: 5.78 billion of which will go to the aging Space Shuttle fleet and the useless International Space Station. The Shuttle fleet will be mothballed in 2010. Lots of money for an aging fleet, 2/5ths of which failed.

There's also $4.44 billion allotted for "Science" which includes "investments in measuring the forces and effects of climate change" which will allow "policymakers and the public to better understand its implications to our home planet".

Shouldn't the subject of "climate change" be one for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration?

You'd think if the concern was possible negative human effects to our home planet, the correct way to directly affect that would be to properly fund things like the Refuge system, which has a direct, quantifiable impact on nature and the ecosystem. I guess even NASA has to bow at the politically correct alter of the "global warming" religion, unless it's just looking for more money to suck from the government teat.

"Global warming" or "climate change" or whatever it's called now is bunk. The real battles for the ecosystem of our planet lie in our communities, not in the heads of some funding-hungry zealots who think humans are the cause of all the planet's ills.

Fund the projects which have a direct impact on the quality and protection of nature, and the world will be a better place. We may even appreciate the heavens a bit more.


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Comments (17)

Speaking of the environment... (Below threshold)
mag:

Speaking of the environment...what upsets me is all the litter you see around. Why is it so bad everywhere. Why are people so lazy as to throw something out of a car window rather do the right thing. What the hell do their house and yards look like. I am a very fussy housekeeper and when I see the streets litter with garbage it drives me insane.

Not to litter and clean up after yourself I think is the first step in "cleaning up the environment".

Everybody thinks the things... (Below threshold)
SATerp:

Everybody thinks the things THEY'RE interested in, the things THEY SEE every day, are worth while. Sorry, we just can't afford it.

Littering of biodegradables... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

Littering of biodegradables is actually environmentally helpful. When they get spread out they break down back into the environment a great deal faster than being concentrated in a dump.

Of course it would be an eyesore. However which is more important, being environmentally friendly or feeling like you are environmentally friendly?

I'm sorry Mr Mallow but bey... (Below threshold)

I'm sorry Mr Mallow but beyond the simple assertion that we 'ought' to spend more on the NWRS budget... (and perhaps we should) but you've insufficiently made your case.

Here's why. You say,"The total amount allotted to this agency is a paltry $398 million. ... that's an increase of $12 million over last year,

Then you state,"It is estimated that 565 jobs will be cut,[and]I can only imagine what will happen in the near future if their little budget gets chopped even more"

To belabor the obvious, if the NWRS budget has increased by 12% and inflation is approx. 5%, why, pray tell are jobs being cut? And upon what basis do you suggest that an increase in agency revenue is a budget cut?

You provide no other explanatory information...

Thank you, Geoffrey.<... (Below threshold)
shawn:

Thank you, Geoffrey.

I did not mention the 2.5 billion budget shortfall that the agency is facing.

In addition to that, new refuges, as per congress, have been added since F/Y 2008. As such, it is a fluid, dynamic program which requires new and different approaches as dictated by circumstances on the ground, requiring adjustments in funding on almost a case by case basis. Maintaning and upgrade of constantly changing natural habitats require proper funding, staffing, maintenance and care. It is my belief that funding for this agency is insufficient for it's importance to the beauty of the country. That's just my feelings on it. And was my ultimate reason for writing my opinion of the situation.

I do, however, see your points and how my explanation was lacking in total information.

Thanks again!

-Shawn

Nice blog, btw!

I am a space geek. ... (Below threshold)
MF:


I am a space geek.
NASA is one of the few remaining items left in America to be very proud of and worth more than the money provided.

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/index.html The money is used for improving our lives here on earth: education, health, jobs, daily living improvements etc. NASA
gives back to our society in a positive way
versus some programs which only are social 'hand outs' with no plan for improvements in sight. there are people we all know and love alive today because of the discoveries and improvements due to the space industry. Having worked for the government for many a year this is definitely worth the small about of money (the fraction of a penny per person provided) provided. We get so much more in return.

Shawn,I too love n... (Below threshold)

Shawn,

I too love nature and therein lies my attention to this matter.

I don't mean to be dense but I don't quite follow your explanation. Your figures don't appear to add up.

How can an agency with a 'total amount allotted to this agency of $398 million' be facing a $2.5 BILLION budget shortfall? Wouldn't such a shortage in revenue result in FAR MORE than a 20% of staff lay-off?

If by 'budget shortfall' you mean the amount required to do the job right...fine, but if so, its somewhat disingenuous to imply that not having enough $ to do the job properly translates into the need for job cuts when the agency is enjoying a 12% budget increase...

Another point; what 'maintenance' and 'upgrades' (beyond a very minimal amount) does a wildlife refuge require?

Isn't the idea that people should impose an absolutely minimal impact upon the area? That they leave the area alone, so as to enable the natural ecosystem to thrive?

When man doesn't interfere, doesn't nature do just fine without ANY input from us? So wherein lies the need for large Budgets?

After all $398M / 596 refuges is $667,785 per refuge...exactly why is that not completely sufficient? Surely some will require more, especially if new but many if not most will require far less...

I'll close with a personal note. Over the years, I've driven by the CA state wildlife refuge @ Pt Mugu naval missile testing range many times.

Everybody just drives by the marsh and the wildlife appears to the casual observer to be doing just fine essentially being ignored by most people.

Certainly not much $ could be spent on doing anything beyond casual inspection to ensure that no one is violating the relevant regulations and laws concerning the refuge.

So Shawn, as much as many of us value nature what more needs to be done that isn't already being done? Wilderness, by definition, is a low-expense proposition, and without being too cute, just how much did the Indians spend on it?

MF,I quite agree a... (Below threshold)

MF,

I quite agree and I am also a science/space dork.

Might I add that the future benefits of space exploration will, for future generations far exceed the present investment?

Asteroid mining offers the promise of resources to support humanity's long-term prosperity on Earth, and our movement into space and the solar system.

The technologies needed to return asteroidal resources to Earth Orbit (and thus catalyze our colonization of space) will also enable the deflection of at least some of the impact-threatening objects. That's an added benefit that should not be discounted lightly, as but could they, the Dinosaurs would attest.

Spectroscopic studies suggest, and 'ground-truth' chemical assays of meteorites confirm, that a wide range of resources are present in asteroids and comets, including nickel-iron metal, silicate minerals, semiconductor and platinum group metals, water, bituminous hydrocarbons, and trapped or frozen gases including carbon dioxide and ammonia.

Many meteorites contain Platinum Group Metals at grades of up to 100 ppm (or 100 grams per ton). Earth open pit platinum and gold mines mine ores of grade 5 to 10 ppm, so grades of 10 to 20 times higher would be regarded as spectacular if available in quantity, on Earth.

The smallest Earth-crossing asteroid 3554 Amun is a mile-wide (2,000-meter) lump of iron, nickel, cobalt, platinum, and other metals; it contains 30 times as much metal as Humans have mined throughout history, although it is only the smallest of dozens of the known metallic asteroids and worth perhaps, at 2001 market prices, US $20 trillion.

Nuclear Fusion is the process that the Sun uses, it is environmentally benign and scientists estimate there are about 1 million tons of helium 3 on the moon, enough to power the world for thousands of years...

People who question the value of space exploration are simply focused into the present to such a degree, they can't see the future's potential.

Private industry needs to b... (Below threshold)
Imhotep:

Private industry needs to be allowed to cut down some of the trees in the forrest, or Mother Nature will burn them (and other structures) to the ground. The fire will require Billions of dollars to put out and cost insurance!

If we really love the environment, we would chop down some trees.

How much carbon and contami... (Below threshold)
SPURWING PLOVER:

How much carbon and contaminates are put into the air everytime the idiots from GREENPEACE putter around in their garbage scows RAINBOW WARRIOR II and ARCTIC SUNRISE?

For the space geeks: NASA i... (Below threshold)
Paden Cash:

For the space geeks: NASA is to human space exploration as Jeffery Dahmer is to vegetarianism. The useful parts of NASA should be folded into the Air Force and the AF should be given the mission of getting people into space on a permanent basis, so we can exploit the massive resources available there. Preferably Americans.
I love nature so much that I moved way out in the country to enjoy it first hand. As for the national parks being adequately staffed, no worries mate. If the NPS isn't staffing the wilderness areas the DEA will be there.

"Another point; what 'maint... (Below threshold)
shawn:

"Another point; what 'maintenance' and 'upgrades' (beyond a very minimal amount) does a wildlife refuge require?

Isn't the idea that people should impose an absolutely minimal impact upon the area? That they leave the area alone, so as to enable the natural ecosystem to thrive?

When man doesn't interfere, doesn't nature do just fine without ANY input from us? So wherein lies the need for large Budgets?

After all $398M / 596 refuges is $667,785 per refuge...exactly why is that not completely sufficient? Surely some will require more, especially if new but many if not most will require far less...

I'll close with a personal note. Over the years, I've driven by the CA state wildlife refuge @ Pt Mugu naval missile testing range many times.

Everybody just drives by the marsh and the wildlife appears to the casual observer to be doing just fine essentially being ignored by most people.

Certainly not much $ could be spent on doing anything beyond casual inspection to ensure that no one is violating the relevant regulations and laws concerning the refuge.

So Shawn, as much as many of us value nature what more needs to be done that isn't already being done? Wilderness, by definition, is a low-expense proposition, and without being too cute, just how much did the Indians spend on it?"
-------------------------------------
Maintenance of trails, scientific research done on site, draining and filling of management dikes, creation of more environmentally friendly facilities. Not to mention the neccessity of having to deal with the 40 million visitors each year to places on which you say we "impose an absolutely minimal impact".

The reason for the existence of these parks is due to man's interference of nature. The Indians didn't have pavement, cities and urban sprawl cutting down on viable natural habitat.

As to space exploration:

"People who question the value of space exploration are simply focused into the present to such a degree, they can't see the future's potential."

I am an active ametuer astronomer, both visual and astrophotographic, and am not questioning the value of exploration at all.

I simply don't like the fact that NASA is spending money on projects to study "climate change".

I also think that, instead of spending so much money on a system which will be abandoned in a year is a waste. Nasa's greatest success in recent years have been unmanned space mission, which have yielded some of it's most spectacular success yet regarding information, knowledge and understanding of what lies in our solar system. I also think that, the best way to prepare for manned spaceflight beyond our moon is through applications of technology utilized by unmanned missions.

This all being said, I think we agree on more than it seems.



Paden/GoeffreyGood... (Below threshold)
MF:

Paden/Goeffrey
Good responses. thx
I worked for the government along with the US military efforts. I'd like to see more collaborative efforts as were in the past but I wouldnt turn it over to the AF. AF has rightfully so different agendas: defense.
There are manned and unmanned missions which I agree are still needed as well.
The variety of options and enhancements are definitely needed.
We are working a phased approach and are praying for a sooner transition into the next vehicles. For example: we have the intelligence and experiences but we are concerned because it appears that there needs to be better planning and specifically defined goals, plans, and schedules top down to also include more research and development.
for example: If we can defy time then lengthy missions can be reduced.


environmentI grew u... (Below threshold)
MF:

environment
I grew up with recycling and still our family does as much as we can.

I recently read an article that indicated that
the ice has returned in the North with the cold weather.
Also the SUN and solar system do effect the weather here on Earth as well.

Shawn,We do agree ... (Below threshold)

Shawn,

We do agree in the main.

Just for clarity's sake, I agree as to NASA spending too much on studying climate change, plenty of $ is already being spent on it by other agencies and with grants to various scientists.

But I do not think that NASA shifting its primary focus to unmanned missions is the way to go but I do agree that unmanned missions do play an important part.

However, on the nature issue and the NWRS budget I continue to be unconvinced by your argument.

You now appear to be confusing wildlife refuges with National Parks. The 40 million visitors are in the main to the National Parks, but the Parks budget in 2008 is 1.9 Billion...!

"In 2008, under George W. Bush, the Park Service's budget increased by a record $110 million. Longer-term, the Centennial Initiative, could add up to $3 billion to Park Service funding between now and 2016, when the system turns 100."

"The FY 2009 budget calls for a landmark request of $2.1 billion for park operations, an increase of $161 million over the FY 2008 enacted amount. Combined with the 2008 enacted budget, this totals a two-year increase of $282 million."

As for, "Maintenance of trails, scientific research done on site, draining and filling of management dikes, creation of more environmentally friendly facilities."

Maintenance of trails is a relatively low expense proposition, few wildlife refuges need dikes and the draining and filling can in many cases be automated. Scientific research? There are plenty of scientists studying nature, why does the NWRS need more than a small staff? And again, why would a wildlife refuge need environmentally friendly visitor facilities?

And I noticed you didn't respond to the discrepancy I mentioned,"How can an agency with a 'total amount allotted to this agency of $398 million' be facing a $2.5 BILLION budget shortfall?"

Shawn,I see you me... (Below threshold)
potroast:

Shawn,

I see you mentioned a park in South Jersey. Keep traveling south to Cape May Point State Park and I know you would enjoy this park. There are many trails and an observation deck for bird watching. There are other points of interest as well. Go to the website for further information on migration.

The nations first NATIONAL ... (Below threshold)
SPURWING PLOVER:

The nations first NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE PELICAN ISLAND was becuase of a REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT AND ADVID HUNTER that wad THEADORE ROOSEVELT




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