The annual process of funding the federal government starts with a proposed budget the president sends to Congress. While this is just a proposal, the president’s budget request includes expert opinions from staff at federal agencies about the money they need to accomplish their jobs, and it sets the tone for the debate in Congress. The final federal budget directly affects many League priorities for conservation and outdoor recreation.
Outdoor interests would generally fare well under the Obama Administration’s 2016 budget request, which was released on February 2. Energy and climate change took top billing. The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would increase by $450 million to $8.6 billion. Approximately $3.6 billion of this budget funds the agency’s work on public health and the environment. Funds dedicated to helping states protect drinking water and upgrade sewage treatment plants would receive $2.3 billion. Climate change and air quality programs would receive $1.11 billion, and $4 billion would go toward helping states cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
The president would increase the budget for the Department of the Interior nearly $1 billion to $13.2 billion. This would include the full, authorized level of $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which funds public outdoor recreation lands and opportunities using fees paid by offshore oil and gas drilling companies. League policy calls for full funding of LWCF. The president’s budget also includes a proposal, which the League supports, to allocate 1.5 percent of the LWCF to increasing public access to public lands. National Wildlife Refuge System funding would increase $34 million to $508 million and include new money specifically for wildlife and habitat monitoring and collaborative approaches to adapting to changes in the climate.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, however, would take a $50 million cut down to $250 million. The League strongly supports this multi-year initiative, which is cleaning up pollution, combatting the spread of invasive species, and restoring water quality. The State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, which provides funding to benefit wildlife and wildlife habitat, would receive a respectable $70 million. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act would get a flat $34 million to pay for voluntary wetland conservation.
The president’s Department of Agriculture budget would severely under-fund farm conservation programs supported by the League. It would, however, put $80 million toward understanding and responding to declines in populations of bees and other pollinators.
As the budget debate heats up in Congress, we will let you know when our conservation and outdoor recreation priorities are at risk and need your support.