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.