Sen. Murkowski threatens retaliatory budget cut for the DOI

Muskoxen in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. USFWS photo.

In retaliation for the Obama administration’s proposal to set aside more than 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has threatened to cut the budget of the Department of the Interior. The wilderness designation would prevent any chance of oil exploration in the area, which would infuriate many Republican politicians.

Four agencies in the DOI  employ large numbers of wildland firefighters — the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Land Management. If Senator Murkowski is able to impose a large cut in the DOI budget, perhaps hundreds or thousands of employees could lose their jobs, with some of them being firefighters.

But the Senator says “jobs are transitory”.

Below is an excerpt from an article at Alaska Public Media:

…But as chair of the Energy Committee and a member of the Appropriations Committee, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski has some level of oversight over the Department of the Interior. Murkowski says Secretary Sally Jewell will appear before her twice in the coming weeks.

“She will be before my energy committee on the Tuesday next, as she presents the budget,” Murkowski said. “And then I will have her in front of my Interior appropriations subcommittee on March 4, so I’m going to have plenty of opportunity to engage with her.”

Murkowski notes she is in a position to affect the Department of Interior’s budget.

“If budgets are reduced and people lose their jobs, that is an outcome. Right now, what people in this region seem to be concerned about is losing their land. A job is transitory,” Murkowski said. “This Secretary is going to have this job for just two more years, this President is going to have this job for less than two years, but the land – the land – that’s what I’m here to protect. This is what we need to be fighting for. I’m not going to be fighting for some short-term job for a bureaucrat.”

In response, Jewell says she is “hopeful” that there will not be retaliatory cuts, and notes the Department provides aerial mapping of Alaska and monitors earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the state.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

5 thoughts on “Sen. Murkowski threatens retaliatory budget cut for the DOI”

  1. Forest Service is US Dept. of Agriculture, but maybe Murkowski has buddies on Ag, too, if she’s in a bad mood?

  2. So that’s how you protect the land… by getting rid of the people who look after it.
    Ah wudda nevah guessed that’s how it’s done.

    1. Maybe someone can correct me on this, but the last I heard, all of the funds for fire management for the five land management agencies (USFS, BLM, FWS, BIA, & NPS) first go to the BLM, and then they are distributed to the five agencies. The amount that goes to the BLM is determined, agency by agency, and function by function, by the amounts that are approved in the appropriation legislation approved by Congress and signed by the President. If a Senator has enough power and influence, and is motivated by retaliation, they could affect the dollar amounts in the legislation. A significant reduction could result in a smaller workforce.

      1. The annual fiscal year DOI fire budget request at one time was in fact developed and presented by the four interior fire bureaus (BLM, FWS, NPS, and BIA), and was handled by the BLM as the parent account, with the actual appropriation split by the bureaus. The DOI Office of Wildland Fire has largely taken over the budget request and processing process, though the bureau Fire Directors are involved in identifying how budget cuts are taken. The FS handles their own budget process. Also remember that the DOI fire budget process is independent of the general NPS budget process, for example. So, a bureau’s appropriation could be squeezed without necessarily affecting the DOI fire budget. The reverse happened recently when the DOI fire program’s fuels budget was cut, which did not necessarily affect the bureaus’ base (non-fire) budget or staffing.


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