CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Something happening soon in our nation's capital will take a $760,000 bite out of West Virginia's fish, wildlife and law enforcement programs.
It has a fancy name - "budget sequestration." What it amounts to is automatic, almost-across-the-board cuts to governmental spending.
You've probably heard about the "fiscal cliff" the federal government faces at the end of this year. Part of the cliff comes from tax increases tied to the new health care law, and from expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts. The other part of the cliff is a pile of mandatory budget cuts that go into effect if Congress fails to agree on a budget by December.
Congress passed the law that required the cuts, but they left it up to the White House and executive-department bureaucrats to decide which programs to cut and which to exempt.
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget detailed those cuts in a Sept. 14 report. The news wasn't good for the nation's sportsmen.
Three federal programs that provide roughly $972 million a year to state fish and wildlife agencies are to be cut by 7.6 percent.
Curtis Taylor, wildlife chief for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said West Virginia receives approximately $10 million a year from those programs. That's roughly 40 percent of the DNR's budget. The projected 7.6 percent cut would slash $760,000 from West Virginia's share of the federal money.
"The cuts will cripple us," Taylor said. "Without that funding, some of our programs will go away, and others will be seriously curtailed - rifle ranges, trout hatcheries, hunter education, and even our Archery in the Schools program."
Taylor and other agency heads are scrambling to figure out what to do. When I reached Taylor, he was in Arkansas at a meeting of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. He said the cuts "are all everyone is talking about."