Interior Secretary Zinke Testifies on Proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget

Newly appointed Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, testified before the House Committee on Appropriations’ Interior Subcommittee on June 8 regarding the agency’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. That proposal prioritizes maintenance of National Parks infrastructure and energy development and may include increased oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf while offering cuts in programs important to fish and aquatic resources.   

The agency’s proposed $1.6 billion (12%) budget cut from FY17 enacted levels would result in severe cuts to a number of conservation and climate programs important to AFS members.  The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs), amongst others, face drastic budget reductions.  Zinke defended the Department of Interior’s fiscal year 2018 budget stating: “This is what a balanced budget looks like.”  

The LWCF is funded by revenue from offshore oil and gas leasing and seeks to protect natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans.  The program provides for the development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities and acquisition of public lands. Despite the Trump administration’s focus on increased oil and gas drilling, the LWCF is looking at proposed budget cuts of almost $300 million.

USGS’s National and Regional CASCs are facing the elimination of four of eight centers under the proposed budget. These centers provide sound, actionable science to help fish and wildlife managers to develop and execute climate-resilient management strategies. On the larger climate issue, Zinke testified that he planned to centralize all climate change research under one division within his department rather than four or five.

While not specifically covered in Zinke’s testimony last week, the National Fish Habitat Partnership (NFHP) is slated to be cut by $1 million. NFHP works to conserve fish habitat nationwide through 20 regionally-based Fish Habitat Partnerships. As a result of the proposed cuts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not participate in meetings or activities related to the NFHP program until Zinke’s office has an opportunity to review the agency’s participation in a number of boards and commissions.

In response to the proposed budget cuts at Interior, AFS is working with our partners on letters to Congress in support of the Climate Science Centers and conservation funding in general. We urge AFS members to call or write your member of Congress on these issues.

Upcoming hearings on Interior’s budget:

*Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on the President’s FY18 budget request for Interior

Tuesday, June 20, 2017, in Dirksen 366 at 10AM

*Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior hearing on the FY18 budget proposal for environment and natural resources programs

Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Dirksen 124 at 9:30AM

* House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the FY18 budget proposal for Interior

Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Longworth 1324 at 9:30AM