National wildlife refuges pump more than $2 billion to the economy but proposed cuts in federal funds could hurt those lands, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told conservation leaders Tuesday.
Speaking at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Jewell said she was frustrated with Congress over the federal government shutdown and cuts being proposed to two conservation funds.
"Both of those were goose-egged. Zero. And the Fish and Wildlife Service had its budget cut by 27 percent," she said. "It won't stick, I hope. It's absurd, but if you care about this it's important that you let your elected officials know that these are important tools for Minnesota to protect what is important to Minnesota."
The $2 billion boost from the refuges comes from a new report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Interior Department is also working to find the right balance between development, energy independence and protecting the environment, she said. That includes efforts to mitigate the impacts of oil drilling in North Dakota.
"There are places in this country that have great potential to develop and relatively low conflict," she said. "And then there are places in this country that are too special to develop that we need to conserve."