Bob Wade Jr.
When I purchased a 273-acre farm almost 25 years ago, I incorporated my father's values of land stewardship. He knew that if you take good care of the land, it will take care of you. I now use that philosophy to farm nearly 3,500 acres of continuously no-tilled corn and soybeans in Hardin County.
I know quite a few farmers who care as much as I do about preserving our land and water, but in many parts of the country, the farming way of life is threatened. On top of losing rich and healthy lands to development, our natural resources are now also threatened by serious spending cuts for conservation being considered by Congress.
The proposed spending cuts will drastically reduce, and in some cases, eliminate valuable and long-standing conservation programs that protect our open spaces and natural places for wildlife, hunting and fishing. Programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund are facing cuts of 90 percent. This program has provided funds to protect special places across Kentucky such as the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and Daniel Boone National Forest.
These places are important because outdoor recreation is vital to Kentucky's economy. Each year, 820,000 hunters and anglers and 1.5 million wildlife watchers spend $1.9 billion on outdoor recreation in Kentucky. So the Land and Water Conservation Fund supports local jobs and the economy by encouraging tourism and outdoor activities.
I understand our nation is in the midst of a financial crisis, and I know cuts need to be made. But the budget cuts the Senate is currently considering disproportionately target conservation issues and run counter to America's long bipartisan tradition of protecting land and water for people and nature in good times and bad.
These budget cuts are shortsighted and will create more expensive — and possibly irrevocable — problems in the future. In fact, conservation pays for itself in the United States through the benefits of clean water supplies; maintaining productive land for farming and forestry; through protection from natural hazards such as storms and floods, and through the economic return from tourism, hunting and angling and other outdoor recreation. Outdoor recreation provides millions of jobs and contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Hunting and fishing generate more than 1.6 million jobs and more than $76 billion in sportsmen-related activities, according to the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation.
Americans want to protect our natural resources. A public opinion poll commissioned by The Nature Conservancy revealed that more than three-quarters of voters believe we can continue to protect the environment while strengthening the economy.
I urge Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to listen to the American people and reject the deep cuts made to environmental and conservation programs that would cripple Kentucky's and the nation's ability to protect our natural environment, our economy, our health and our children's heritage. Kentucky, and our nation, need a sustained investment to conserve our working lands, clean waters, forests and natural areas and to provide access to nature for all Americans.
Bob Wade Jr. lives on Back Forty Farms in Sonora.