World environment programs in US budget crosshairs

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – What do flood prevention in  Nepal, wildlife preservation in Namibia and reef fishing in  Indonesia have to do with the U.S. budget?

Global conservation programs like these have all gotten  help from the U.S. government, and they are probably prime  targets of the budget-cutting congressional “super committee,”  since they sit at the crossroads of two things Americans don’t  like spending much money on: foreign aid and the environment.

As the 12 members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit  Reduction work to whittle the budget by at least $1.2 trillion  over 10 years — if they fail to do so by Nov. 23, automatic  spending cuts kick in — they may take aim at funds that pay  for international conservation efforts.

That’s of deep concern to the nongovernmental organizations  that run these programs and see them as relative bargains that  can prevent vastly more expensive relief operations or security  threats caused by thinning natural resources in unstable parts  of the world.

“It’s important to consider what these investments are  meant to support,” said Reid Detchon, the nongovernmental  United Nations Foundation vice president for energy and  climate. “It’s not all about birds and bunnies — it’s  investments that have a real impact on saving lives.”

Most Americans don’t know much about how U.S. foreign aid  dollars are spent, and don’t think highly of foreign aid in  general, according to Karlyn Bowman, an expert on public  opinion polling at the American Enterprise Institute.

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