GOP aims to slash spending for public lands, environmental programs
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Given the vapid rhetoric from House GOP leaders the last few years, a full frontal assault on public lands was inevitable. It came this week, in the form of proposed massive budget cuts for public lands and environmental programs, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Overall, the interior funding bill proposed by the House Appropriations Committee this week cuts $5.5 billion — 19 percent — from Fiscal Year 2013 levels, covering the Department of the Interior, the EPA, the Forest Service, and various independent and related agencies.
The EPA would take the biggest hit, as the proposed budget would trim the agency’s budget by $2.8 billion, down to $5.5 billion — and the GOP wasn’t shy about saying that the cuts are politically motivated.
In a press release on the proposed budget, the committee wrote: “The legislation reflects significant efforts to rein in the EPA – an agency that has been rife with governmental overreach, overspending on ineffective and unnecessary programs, and costly and questionable regulations.”
Read the full press release, outlining the proposed cuts, here. The stark cuts in natural resource programs are a direct result of the larger budget process in the House, which slashed the funding available to the Subcommittee by over $5 billion, or nearly 20 percent, from current-year levels.
The U.S. Forest Service budget would increase slightly, by $149 million, woth most of the increase related to wildfire prevention and suppression, but the National Park Service would also see funding fall 9 percent from this year.
The proposed budget drew immediate and loud criticism from conservation groups, who were especially incensed that the GOP wants to completely shut down the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program funded by royalties from oil and gas revenues earned on public lands.
Conservation advocates say eliminating the program would harm the country’s robust outdoor recreation economy, as well as communities that rely on public lands and outdoor amenities to meet local needs and to attract workers and businesses.
“Millions of American families enjoy the outdoors because the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped create parks and save land,” said Will Rogers, president of The Trust for Public Land. “It has been one of the most important and effective conservation tools in the past 50 years, and cutting all spending for it would be a real disservice to
an American public which has time and time again voiced its support for federal, state, and local land conservation.”
By contrast, President Obama’s budget proposed $600 million for LWCF in 2014 and full funding beginning in 2015.
The LWCF Coalition comprises conservation, recreation, business, and sportsmen’s groups working together to support the LWCF program in order to meet America’s conservation and recreation needs in the 21st century. For more information on LWCF and the places in each state that have been protected using LWCF funds, visit www.lwcfcoalition.org.