Unless Congress acts to protect the refuges, another casualty will be the numerous climate security and ecosystem service benefits provided by the NWRS that support, directly or indirectly, the operation of military installations. For example, refuges buffer the effects of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and other increasingly potent natural disasters; manage storm surge and water runoff; and recharge aquifers.
If the NWRS capacity is diminished, then installations will pay to recover these services in some other, harder way — or they will have to make do with less access to water and possible reductions in operations to address air and water quality issues. Indeed, the NWRS provides approximately $26.9 billion in ecosystem services per year, for the lower 48 states alone.
It’s true that congressional proposals to cut the NWRS budget by 10 to 20 percent will cause irreparable harm to wildlife while also restricting visitation opportunities enjoyed by more than 40 million people each year. But the national security ramifications of such a cut are perhaps even greater as one of the Defense Department’s most important domestic allies for training readiness is eviscerated. It’s time that budget doves and hawks in Congress become birds of a feather, avoid this reckless course and recognize the multiple benefits of adequately funding our national wildlife refuges.
Rebecca R. Rubin is president and CEO of Marstel-Day LLC and also serves as a member of the board of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. David Houghton is president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and chairman of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.