Anglers and hunters once courted by President George W. Bush don’t like what they’re seeing in the GOP’s mad dash to cut spending and have made their feelings clear in meetings this month with top aides to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
As the Republican leaders no doubt know, this is not a crowd to mess with. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation estimates that nearly eight in 10 hunters always vote in presidential elections, while six in 10 go to the polls in off years.
Back in power, House Republicans may have poisoned the well with their austere spending strategy, including the fiscal 2012 interior and environment spending bill that is on track for approval Tuesday in the Appropriations Committee.
Under the legislation, the Interior Department’s overall budget would fall $720 million from fiscal 2011. A popular land and water conservation fund would see a more than 80 percent cut to $62 million, while funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act would get a 47 percent reduction to $20 million. State Wildlife Grants would also be cut 64 percent to $22 million.
“In the past, conservation has been a bipartisan issue. Democrats and Republicans have always agreed about hunting and fishing,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, one of four conservation groups that took issue with a GOP-sponsored rider that blocks the Environmental Protection Agency from updating Clean Water Act policies dealing with fish and wildlife habitat.