On June 20, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies passed a $28 billion draft FY13 spending bill. The bill, which includes funding for the Forest Service,BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS), and EPA took a $1.2 billion dollar reduction from the FY12 spending level and is $1.7 billion below the President’s request.
Hit hardest by the reduced bill was the EPA, which would see their budget falling from $8.4 billion down to $7 billion (a 17 percent reduction). If enacted, the cuts would come on top of extensive cuts over the last two years and amount to over a $3 billion reduction since 2010.
Committee Republicans indicated that the proposed cuts to EPA were in response to excessive, job-killing regulations being issued by the agency. While the budget for the Interior Department is up $57 million from last year, it is $79 million below the President’s requested level. Several agencies within Interior would see large reductions including the FWS whose budget would take a 21 percent hit falling from over $1.5 billion down to $1.2 billion. The BLM O&C lands will be funded at $110 million which is $2 million below the President’s request.
While the Committee report outlining the specific funding splits is not yet available, the reductions may come at the expense of Secretary Salazar’s “Western Oregon Strategy” and new resource management planning activities.
The Forest Service would receive $4.7 billion, which is an $86 million increase from the 2012 budget. There are also some very positive provisions in the bill, including a $6 million increase for the National Forest Timber Management program, designation by prescription authority for forest management projects, and a legislative fix to a recent court decision requiring Administrative Appeals for projects
undertaken with Categorical Exclusions. The bill would also allow the continued use of the 1982 and 2000 forest planning rules, continue the prohibition on Clean Water Act permits for forest roads, provide a one-year extension of the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Act, and provide an expansion of the Good Neighbor Authority, currently only available in Colorado, to all Western states.
As large wildfires continue to burn in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Arizona, $3.2 billion is included for wildfire fighting and prevention programs for both the Forest Service and Interior Department. This is a $6 million increase over the current year, including full funding of the 10-year average wildland fire suppression costs for both Interior and the Forest Service. The bill also includes a one-year authorization for mandatory funding of the Payments-in-lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) program.
Finally, the bill would cut land acquisition funding from its current level of $322 million to $66 million.
For more information please visit the American Forest Resource Council.