Fish & Wildlife to lose jobs in Pacific
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in the Pacific Islands Region will phase out five field jobs at refuges over the next five years -- a cut far smaller than in some mainland areas.
That represents an 8 percent reduction in wildlife refuge jobs, said Ken Foote, a spokesman for the Pacific Islands Region headquartered in Honolulu. That's better than the 20 percent staffing cuts expected nationally at the agency's 547 refuges.
President Bush has requested about $398 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System for the next budget year, a $12 million increase over current spending but far short of what critics say is needed.
The agency estimates it needs a $15 million annual increase to keep pace with inflation, and a much larger amount to chip into the $2.5 billion backlog for maintenance and operations.
"These staff reductions will result in scaling back, and in some cases eliminating, biological monitoring projects, invasive species control programs, habitat restoration projects, interpretive activities, environmental education programs, and facility maintenance to a level that (remaining) staff can handle effectively," according to a Web-based description of the Pacific Islands staffing reduction.
No employees will lose their jobs in the Pacific Island Fish and Wildlife Service, and no Hawaii refuges that are currently staffed will become "unstaffed," Foote said. The reductions will be made by attrition, he said.
One bright spot is that the service will add four jobs at the new Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Pacific Islands Project Leader Barry Stieglitz said recently.
But the long-term trend means, "if the service does not act decisively now, it will become unable to effectively operate most national wildlife refuges within a few years, even if budgets remain level," said David Eisenhauer, an agency spokesman.
Star-Bulletin reporter Diana Leone and the Associated Press contributed to this report.