Fiscal Year 2024 Spending Bill Shortchanges National Wildlife Refuge System — The National Wildlife Refuge Association


📷 Snowy Egrets at Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, NV | Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS

Congress recently passed a package of several fiscal year (FY) 2024 spending bills, including the Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies bill that funds the National Wildlife Refuge System. This spending bill will cut $14.5 million from the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Operations & Maintenance budget, or a 2.6% reduction from FY2023 levels. Notably, this bill also does not provide funding to cover the 5.2% pay increase for federal employees that went into effect in January. It costs the Refuge System an estimated $3 million for every one percent raise in payroll costs, meaning the actual cut to the Refuge System is closer to $30 million.

While these cuts are less extreme than what was included in the original House bill, any reduction is still devastating to an already strained and under-resourced Refuge System. Decreased funding will mean fewer staff and resources to ensure quality visitor experiences and safety, an inability to effectively monitor and maintain healthy habitats vital to our native wildlife, and a growing backlog of repairs and deferred maintenance. 

The Refuge System has struggled with funding and staffing challenges for decades due to chronic underfunding that hasn’t kept up with inflation. It has lost over 800, or 16%, of its full-time staff since FY2010 as a result. Yet the Refuge System has experienced incredible growth since that time, adding 16 new refuge units and hundreds of millions of acres of marine national monuments. It has also added new services, such as the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, and visitation has grown by 36% to over 67 million visitors a year. With the enactment of this budget, the Refuge System will now be reduced to a funding level that is only 4.7% higher than FY2010 levels. 

The National Wildlife Refuge Association calls on Congress to recognize that this situation is unsustainable. By not prioritizing the health and integrity of our Refuge System or providing adequate resources to staff and maintain it, these treasured and irreplaceable public lands will be lost for future generations of wildlife and people.


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