Saturday, February 7, 2009

Wildlife Conservation Society Issues Statement On Proposed State Budget Cuts

Monkey seated in tree
December 23, 2008 – The following statement was issued by the Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President for Public Affairs John Calvelli:

"Governor Paterson’s proposed state budget cuts this year and the complete elimination of state funding in fiscal year 2010 for zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums mean the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium face devastating cuts. The governor’s proposal is disproportionate and severe.

This year alone, living museums, like the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, are singled out for the largest reduction -- 55 percent -- very disproportionate to others -- for no strategic reason. Next year, 76 zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums are zeroed out of the budget. This proposal from the governor comes as our nation experiences an economic crisis, which means the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium are facing further financial challenges by funding cuts from the city. It is clear: We can't fire our bears or furlough our sea lions. All options are on the table, including cutting staff and services.

For more than 113 years, we have offered an education experience and access to wildlife from around the world to millions of New Yorkers and tourists. We generate significant dollars each year for the state in tourism and economic development. The funding for Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums (ZBGA), a 25-year-old funding program, within the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), has helped to educate the current and next generation of environmental stewards. These institutions are the economic drivers that spark jobs and a tremendous amount of stimulus to our state’s economy with 10 million visitors annually. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, alone, generated more than $289.6 million in economic activity in FY 2008.

According to a 2008 national public opinion survey, 79 percent of Americans believe that zoos and aquariums are good for their local economy, and an impressive 80 percent believe that zoos and aquariums are important enough to local communities to be supported by government funding.

We know we need to be a part of a budget solution and that is all we are asking. Don't cut with an ax, but with a strategic scalpel. All of us need to contact our state officials ASAP. We need to have a united voice: Please don't unfairly cut the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium. Go to www.wcs.org to take action and save the zoo and aquarium."

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

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