In an attempt to cope with a huge budget backlog, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is cutting and redeploying staff in the National Wildlife Refuge System across the Southwest and the Pacific Regions. Reductions in services will impact refuges in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Guam and several Pacific islands.
As a result of the cuts, environmental education programs for school children will be eliminated, there will be cuts in endangered species recovery programs, habitat management and law enforcement will be diminished. According to the workforce plan that outlines the cuts, the Pacific region is leaving 32 positions vacant and will eliminate another 17 jobs by fiscal year 2009, resulting in a total of 49 eliminated positions. Because of these staffing cuts, 28 refuges, or 44 percent of the refuges in the region, will remain completely unstaffed and 21 refuges, or one-third of the refuges in the region, will experience further reductions.
The plan calls for the elimination of almost a quarter of the biologists in the Pacific region, crippling the wildlife agency's ability to monitor and restore wildlife populations. One quarter of the staff that actively manages habitat will also be eliminated, causing over 40 invasive species control projects and wetland restoration projects to be reduced or abolished outright.