Blog

Worth the Wait: Congress Passes Conservation Budget

Jared Mott, IWLA Conservation Director
U.S. Capitol dome in snow. Credit: Architect of the U.S. Capitol.

After months of effort, Congressional leaders have passed a federal budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. The new budget invests in key programs and rejects proposed cuts from the White House that would have been deeply counterproductive for the environment and conservation.

Last spring, President Trump sent his budget request for FY 2020 to Congress. Like every previous budget request from this administration, the FY 2020 request slashed conservation spending across all federal agencies. Important programs for protecting clean water, defending against invasive species, and providing access to public lands and outdoor recreation were all cut to zero or nearly so, threatening public health and the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy.

The final compromise soundly rejects any attempts to defund vital environmental programs and invests in protecting Americans’ environment, drinking water, and access to outdoor recreation. Most of the League’s priority programs, in fact, saw budgets increase under the legislation.

The League was vocal in our criticism of the president’s budget request, saying that it “failed to reflect the conservation values of the Izaak Walton League.” Leaders in Congress didn't like the budget request either: as they have done for all of President Trump’s proposed budgets, they declared that the FY 2020 request was essentially dead on arrival and would not be considered by either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

In the months that followed the administration’s budget request, the House of Representatives worked to craft its own version. In early summer, the House released its FY 2020 budget proposal, which unequivocally rejected the administration’s deep cuts to conservation and the environment. Recognizing the importance of investing in conservation, the House maintained or even increased funding for many programs at the Departments of Agriculture, the Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile, the Senate did not move as quickly to pass a budget. In the fall, appropriators on the Senate side began packaging budget bills. After negotiating with House members to iron out the differences between the two chambers' budget numbers, Senate leaders produced a final bill this week. The final compromise soundly rejects any attempts to defund vital environmental programs, and instead it invests in protecting Americans’ environment, drinking water, and access to outdoor recreation. Most of the League’s priority programs, in fact, saw their budgets increase under the legislation. Some vital programs – like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and South Florida Ecosystem Restoration – received their largest increases in more than a decade.

Some of the most popular and vital programs affecting Ikes across the country are highlighted below.

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program: $450 million

Conservation Reserve Program: 24.5 million acres (appropriations for CRP are represented by the number of acres that will be enrolled at current rental rates)

Environmental Quality Incentives Program: $1.75 billion, $100 million increase

Regional Conservation Partnership Program: $300 million, $19 million increase

NRCS Conservation Technical Assistance: $735.7 million, $33.3 million decrease

South Florida Ecosystem Restoration (Everglades): $200 million, $132.5 million increase

Chesapeake Bay Program: $85 million, $12 million increase

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: $320 million, $20 million increase

Missouri River Recovery Program: $17.75 million, same as last year

State & Tribal Wildlife Grants: $67.5 million, $3.5 million increase

Land & Water Conservation Fund: $495 million, $60 million increase

Chronic Wasting Disease: $5 million

Non-Point Source Pollution Grants: $172.34 million, $1 million increase