AFS Urges Congress to Support Programs to Address Climate Change

April 4, 2023

The Honorable Jeff Merkley
Senate Appropriations Committee
Subcommittee on Interior, Environment,
and Related Agencies
131 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Lisa Murkowski
Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Committee
Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
125 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Chairman Merkley and Ranking Member Murkowski,

The undersigned organizations represent millions of hunters, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, land stewards, scientists, and natural resource professionals who together comprise the centerpiece of a powerful economic engine and have helped to place the United States as the world leader in conservation. In July 2020, we delivered to Congress our joint Sportsmen & Sportswomen Climate Statement detailing nature-based climate solutions and asking for meaningful legislation to address the impacts of climate change.

We write to express support for the critical programs and initiatives that contribute to climate action within the Department of the Interior (DOI), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These programs expand and mature the role of nature-based solutions in infrastructure and climate mitigation and adaptation solutions that benefit fish and wildlife, habitat, and people and communities that depend upon healthy ecosystems.

As your subcommittee drafts FY24 spending legislation, we ask you to consider our recommendations below:

USGS Climate Adaptation Science Center and Land Change Science Program – $128 million
The regional and national Climate Adaptation Science Centers are essential to effective implementation of conservation, restoration, and land management both within and outside of DOI. Through land change science, research and modeling of environmental, land, and climate change interactions provide better understanding of ecosystem resilience and ways in which nature can help buffer human communities from natural hazard. Federal, state, and local programs rely on these centers to deliver climate science for decisions on how to prepare for and respond to climate change.

USGS Understanding and Quantifying Ecosystem Services – $11 million
The Land Management Research Program within the Ecosystems Mission Area demonstrates through research how to restore and manage ecosystems while maximizing their ability to support biodiversity and prepare for anticipated climate change impacts. The program’s budget includes funding to build a stronger understanding of the benefits that ecosystems offer and what ecosystem services are most beneficial to communities and would entail quantitative analysis of benefits and trade-offs across the range of land management alternatives. This initiative will help to better measure the value of green infrastructure and better inform land managers and decision makers to achieve multiple conservation outcomes.

USGS Transforming Fire and Drought Science Delivery for Natural Resource Managers – $6.5 million
The Ecosystems and Water Resources Mission Areas have identified the effect of long-term drought and increased wildfires, particularly in the West, as a threat to meeting mission responsibilities. This investment in science delivery and decision support tools will give a more complete picture of the landscape-level changes resulting from these critical issues and would enable resource managers to develop strategies to prevent and mitigate impacts from drought and wildfire in the future.

North American Wetlands Conservation Fund (NAWCA) – $60 million
Established in 1990, NAWCA is a locally-driven partnership grant program which provides federal dollars at a 1:1 match to conserve wetlands and waterfowl habitat, often doubled or tripled at the local level. The America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act reauthorizes NAWCA at $60 million annually through FY2025. This program supports climate adaptation and resiliency and important outdoor activities for sportsmen and sportswomen. Continual support and an increase in funding for this program demonstrates the nation’s investment toward long-term climate mitigation and nature-based infrastructure to minimize impacts of natural disasters and extreme weather.

USFWS National Fish Habitat Partnership (NFHP) – $7.6 million
Established in 2006 and codified by Congress through the ACE Act, NFHP works to improve the quality of life for the American people through partnerships that foster fish habitat conservation and mobilize national support for healthy aquatic ecosystems and their associated fisheries. These partnerships have already led to over 1,300 successful conservation projects in all 50 states benefitting fish habitat and anglers throughout the country. These projects, which include fish passage restoration, stream bank stabilization, invasive plant removal, and other habitat improvements, create more resilient aquatic systems and fisheries.

USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program – $79 million
This program has been critical for landowner engagement and migration corridor conservation on private lands leading to more than 60,000 habitat restoration projects spanning more than 7 million acres. These projects also enhance drought resistance through water conservation projects, create resilience to wildfire, and support climate adaptation and mitigation.

USFS Forest and Rangeland Research (FRR) – $350 million
Expanding the scope and scale of research and science programs related to reforestation, carbon sequestration, and carbon accounting is essential to climate adaptation, mitigation, and risk reduction. Under this program, the USFS supports the Joint Fire Science program with the Department of the Interior to address problems associated with managing wildland fuels, forests, and fire-impacted ecosystems. Within FRR the Forest Inventory and Analysis program supports Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments in climate planning and resilience activities with data, tools, syntheses, and geospatial analyses essential to understanding and informing climate-smart practices. FRR also works with partners such as USDA Climate Hubs to increase scientifically-sound climate adaptation and mitigation practices and information on pursuing nature-based solutions for climate risk reduction.

USFS Reforestation Trust Fund – $262 million
Healthy forests sequester and store carbon. Funds are used to reduce the backlog in reforestation and for stand improvement work. Stand improvement projects improve forest health and productivity, reduce hazardous fuels, create resilient landscapes, and improve wildlife habitat.

USFS Capital Improvement and Maintenance – $235 million
Construction, maintenance, and improvement of roads has been identified as an increasing gap that is crucial to meeting our critical natural resource needs. Poor road conditions and subsequent erosion present threats to water quality and ecosystem health making climate adaptation actions less effective.

USFS Legacy Roads and Trails – $15 million
The program addresses climate change adaptation by restoring, protecting, and maintaining crucial watersheds and improving road crossings and drainage infrastructure and trail design to withstand new weather patterns.

EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund – $1.6 billion
This investment in the value of clean water carries a nearly 3:1 return on investment and have untold benefits to community and ecological health. We also hope to see the inclusion of a provision to codify the requirement that states use at least 15% of CWSRF annual capitalization grants for the Green Project Reserve (GPR). From previous appropriations cycles, there is evidence that states have more than enough qualified projects to fulfill this requirement. Codifying this expectation in law will further accelerate and encourage the incorporation of multi-benefit green, sustainable, and innovative concepts into estuary protection, wastewater infrastructure projects, improving water quality, reducing wastewater treatment needs, mitigating long-term impacts of climate change, reducing flooding, and recharging groundwater supplies.

Healthy, functioning ecosystems mitigate climate change while also making our communities and wildlife more resilient to climate change impacts. The funding provisions outlined above will help protect, restore, and enable critical ecosystems necessary for maintaining hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation economies while providing relevant agencies with access to the best available data to ensure our natural systems work to protect and sustain us.

We appreciate your consideration of these requests and we look forward to working with you and your colleagues as FY24 spending legislation progresses through Congress.


American Fisheries Society
American Fly Fishing Trade Association
American Sportfishing Association
American Woodcock Society
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Fly Fishers International
Izaak Walton League of America
Minority Outdoor Alliance
National Deer Association
North American Falconers Association
Pheasants Forever
Quail Forever
Ruffed Grouse Society
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Wildlife Management Institute