The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress
By Kristyn Brady
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.
Congress may look like it’s getting an early start on spending bills, but we’re pretty sure they’re going nowhere for a while. This week, the House will vote on its appropriations bill for the Department of Interior and EPA. The spending plan would shortchange key conservation programs and target the Obama administration’s environmental and climate change programs. The bill allocates a total of $30.17 billion for the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Forest Service. These disappointing numbers are $246 million below fiscal year 2015 funding levels and represent historically low funding for conservation.
Add to that some damaging policy riders—which would delay the listing of the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act and undermine the recently released clean water rule that clarifies Clean Water Act protections for headwater streams and wetlands—and you’ve got some serious political posturing. As many expected, the GOP-crafted appropriations bill also targets the EPA in a number of these riders and seeks to reduce EPA staff.
There is language prohibiting the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management from ordering new closures of public lands to hunting and recreational shooting.
Here are the highlights of the House spending bill:
- The Environmental Protection Agencyreceived $7.4 billion, a 9% funding decrease
- $69 million cut to regulatory programs.
- Payments in Lieu of Taxes program is fully funded at $452 million
- Bureau of Land Management (BLM) received $1.1 billion, a $30 million increase from FY15
- The National Park Servicereceived $2.7 billion, a $53 million increase over FY15
- $52 million was provided to address the frequently-discussed maintenance backlog
- The U.S. Forest Servicereceived $1.4 billion, an $8 million decrease in funding from FY15 levels
- $3.6 billion provided to DOI and USFS to combat wildfires
- $92 million for the Flame Wildfire Suppression Reserve Fund
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) received $1.4 billion, an $8 million decrease from FY15 funding levels
- North American Wetland Conservation Fund (NAWCA) received $35 million
- State and Tribal Wildlife Grants received $59.195 million
The grass isn’t any greener for other agencies. On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee will mark up its fiscal year 2016 spending bill for the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration. The $20 billion spending package features significant cuts to key conservation programs:
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- Enrollment cut by 23%
- Reduction from 10 to 7.74 million acres.
- Or a 5-year cut of $200 million
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
- $300 million cut
- Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
- $35 million cut
- Conservation Operations (i.e. on-the-ground technical assistance and program delivery)
- $13.5 million cut
The spending plan also features a controversial policy rider that would delay implementation of conservation compliance, a program that requires farmers receiving federal crop insurance to implement conservation practices aimed at improving soil and water quality. The rider would not preclude the U.S. Department of Agriculture from employing compliance, as needed, but would allow the agency to continue to provide subsidies for a year without requiring conservation compliance across the board.
More information on the bill can be found here.