January Advocacy Report

by Caroline Brower, Vice President for Advocacy

With the holidays wrapped up, and Congress back in session, talk has returned to the budget and potential budget cuts. We as Friends can’t do much about whether or not Congress argues itself into a government shutdown, but we DO have the ability to advocate and lobby– yes, lobby– on behalf of wildlife refuges.

Two budget deadlines are upcoming. The first is January 19, includes four of the twelve appropriations subcommittees, but it does not include wildlife refuges. The second deadline is February 2, and includes the remaining eight subcommittees, such as the Interior Department and refuges. House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed this week to a top-line budget number, or basically a cap of what can be spent government-wide this year. We have not seen an Interior-specific number yet. This top-line agreement is a good first step towards preventing a government shutdown, but it is no guarantee.

The biggest concern Friends have regarding the budget for the rest of this fiscal year (FY2024, which ends September 30) is that the House is determined to cut funding. Refuges are already badly understaffed and desperately in need of additional funding. The only way we can get more is to lobby for it. The House included a 10% cut to refuges in their FY2024 budget bill, which would hollow out the System and close dozens of refuges. The Refuge System did an examination of their 568 refuge units several years ago, and determined the true need of the Refuge System (nationwide, not just in Alaska) at $1.5 billion. Current funding is ⅓ of that– $541 million.

The best way you can help Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges in the next few weeks is to ask Senator Murkowski , Senator Sullivan , and Representative Peltola to keep refuge funding strong. Tell them a personal story about how important these refuges are to you and ask them to keep funding strong, at least equal to the current funding levels of $541 million. The links attached to each of their names will take you to the email form on their websites.

Thank you for your advocacy and your support for all of Alaska’s wildlife refuges!