The House of Representatives has proposed a large budget cut for the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior. The numbers are about 20 percent below President Obama’s budget request and about 14 percent below current sequestered funding levels, according to Alan Rowsome, director of conservation funding at the Wilderness Society.
Below are excerpts from an article at eenews:
“It’s an allocation that would have devastating impacts for our lands, water and wildlife,” [Alan Rwosome] said. “At these funding levels, we would see massive and devastating park and wildlife refuge closures, less and less law enforcement officers protecting the public, and almost no resources to fight wildfires across the country.”
The House’s Interior-EPA allocation could change, especially if the chamber receives a new top-line funding level as a result of a budget agreement with the Senate, a House aide said. But it is unclear whether the two chambers will be able to reach such an accord.
The current allocation would put significant pressure on subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) over how to fund programs important to constituents including conservationists, park and wildlife advocates, clean water groups, states, and Indian tribes.
Simpson last month warned that if Congress continues to tackle the deficit through discretionary spending — which accounts for about one-third of overall spending — he may soon be forced to zero out funding to some Interior programs.
“Do we come to the point where we say there are just some things we’re not going to do, and eliminate them and at least concentrate on the parts that we do well?” he asked at an April budget hearing for Interior. “That’s a tough choice.”
Cutting funding for Simpson’s agencies is particularly difficult given the high fixed costs of programs like wildfire funding — which consumes roughly half of the Forest Service budget — and the Indian Health Service, according to one former House appropriations aide.
“They’re going to have to figure out sizable things to just stop doing,” the former aide said.
Then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in April told Simpson his agency was “limping along” under sequestration cuts, which have resulted in fewer park police, reduced services at parks, more than $110 million in cuts in payments to states, reduced youth hiring and furloughs.
Thanks go out to Chris