Environmental budget cuts threaten us all

Dear Editor:

The Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts are a direct threat to Maine’s environmental resources, economy and the public health of our citizens. The President proposed dramatic cuts to nearly every agency working to protect the environment, eliminating nearly all funding for renewable energy and environmental science programs, particularly those focused on climate change and air pollution research.

Here in Maine, we would lose about $4 million a year in environmental programs from cuts to the Multipurpose and Brownfield grants to the States and Tribes program alone. Other programs that benefit Maine such as the Environmental Education program, the Wells National Estuary Program and the entire University of Maine Sea Grant Program would be eliminated in the proposed budget.

Casco Bay Estuary Partnership (CBEP) is funded through the EPA’s National Estuary Program (NEP) and provides critical guidance on issues such as nutrient pollution, watershed management and the protection and restoration of critical fish habitat in Maine’s largest city. CBEP also helps to direct water quality monitoring programs and develop education and marine stewardship programs. We must reject the proposed EPA budget cuts to ensure continued funding for the NEPs and allow CBEP to meet its mission to preserve the ecological integrity of Casco Bay and ensure compatible human uses there. Maine Sea Grant is another program that provides critical support for research and development on a variety of marine issues, including fisheries and aquaculture, renewable energy and conservation. Under the current budget proposal, the entire Maine Sea Grant program is slated for the chopping block.

Undermining conservation doesn’t just hurt wildlife and our natural treasures; it harms local communities, our health and our national economy. Defunding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an unprecedented ambush on our oceans, water, air, wildlife and conserved lands and parks.

That’s why Congress must act to preserve funding for essential conservation and environmental protection efforts to strengthen our economy, create jobs, protect the air we breathe and the water we drink and preserve our unique natural legacy that is essential to the nation’s future.

Those of us who live in coastal Maine have just experienced a taste of the challenges we must continue to face as a result of a changing climate. The proposed budget cuts will speed us off the cliff with life-threatening fossil fuel use and carbon emissions that far exceed our atmospheric capacity to sustain life as we know it.

Our protections against the onslaught of increased 100- and 500-year floods that result from extreme storm events are dependent on these climate science programs. NOAA is a key information gathering body responsible for supporting our understanding of fish and other species important to maintaining historical, cultural and economic ways of life in coastal communities. The agency also tracks a wide range of weather and climate related data that is essential for northeast coastal communities that depend on downtown business areas vulnerable to sea-level-rise. Maine also receives at least $1.2 million a year from NOAA to run its Sea Grant program, which supports important research throughout the state related to management of aquaculture, lobster and water quality. The Sea Grant fellowships, scholarships and community education events help train many young scientists who employ their growing skills and knowledge toward improving our state’s resiliency.

We urge Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Angus King, along with our representatives in the House, to oppose the current budget cuts and advocate on behalf of Mainers for a clean budget that increases funding for NOAA, EPA and climate science programs and has no anti-science riders.

Shri A. Verrill

Habitat Restoration Project Manager

Downeast Salmon Federation

Columbia Falls

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