Take the outdoor recreation industry, which supports millions of American jobs. Why does science matter to them? Consider hunting. Duck populations declined dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s when wetlands were drained to make way for crops and urban development. That decline was reversed by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. It used science to identify 25 million of acres of breeding and nesting habitat that have been conserved by public and private funds. In 2016, the duck population was 48 million, 38 percent above the 1955-2010 average. This is just one example of science shaping a tremendously successful federal conservation program.
Do federal conservation programs cost you a lot? Not a dollar more than they cost you in 1980. Since President Reagan came to office, federal appropriations for natural resource conservation and pollution control have fallen from 2.5 cents of every federal dollar spent to less than a penny.
If you had to design a federal budget, would you spend less than 1 cent of every dollar on science-based work managing and protecting our parks, wildlife refuges, sea shores, fisheries, forests, air and water quality?
Environmentalists are rightly concerned about proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. But I think the greatest threat is the potential decimation of many national science programs including biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health, weather satellites at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the breakthrough energy technology research done by ARAP-E and the work on anticipating and averting climate change done by the Global Change Research Program.