In the December 2008 issue of the American Institute of Biological Sciences journal, BioScience, Sarah Smiley explores how negative budget trends are impacting the United States National Wildlife Refuge System. An excerpt from this article follows:

More than a century ago, the federal government established the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) to conserve fish, wildlife, and plants, as well as their habitats; today the NWRS manages more than 40 million hectares of federal land on 548 individual refuges. However, several reports warn that the system lacks the financial and personnel resources-including biologists-necessary for carrying out its mission effectively.

A report prepared for the NWRS by Management Systems International (MSI), an international development firm, determined that three core NWRS operations have been severely affected by declining funding: (1) law enforcement, (2) the pace of realty acquisition, and (3) biological surveys and monitoring. MSI also determined that the NWRS has failed to meet some of its own strategic goals, largely because of an 11 percent decline in real purchasing power between 2002 and 2007. A $36 million boost in funding for fiscal year 2008 partly offset the decline, but the problem is resurfacing: appropriations for FY 2009 show little promise of increased funding for refuges.

Addressing NWRS funding at a recent congressional hearing, Noah Matson, of Defenders of Wildlife, said, "The Refuge System now needs an additional $20 million each year simply to pay its staff, put gas in the trucks, and keep the lights on."

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