Yesterday, the Trump Administration submitted its budget request for Fiscal Year 2021 to Congress. Unfortunately, this request proposes deep and counterproductive cuts in conservation, environmental protection, and public land management – just like the last three years. Once again, the administration’s proposal jeopardizes public health and the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy.
It’s clear that this administration just does not prioritize conservation. Under the proposed budget, agencies that safeguard our natural resources would not have the financial resources to carry out their missions.
The Department of the Interior, which oversees national parks and national wildlife refuges, would see its budget cut by 13%. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, the nation’s most successful conservation program, would be cut from $487 million to $14.7 million. Funding to conserve wetlands through the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund would be reduced from $46 million to $40 million. Grants to state and tribal fish and wildlife management agencies to conserve at-risk wildlife would be cut by more than half, from $67.5 million to $31.3 million.
It's clear that this proposal does not reflect Americans’ conservation values. The work of League members and partners to engage Congress will now take on even greater importance as we push our elected representatives to pass an alternative budget that provides sufficient funding to protect our natural resources.
The Department of Agriculture’s budget would be reduced by 8% from current funding levels, with deep cuts proposed for conservation programs that help protect water quality, habitat for fish and wildlife, and wetlands nationwide. Funds for conservation technical assistance, which helps farmers and landowners implement important conservation techniques, would be cut by $5 million. Incentives for landowners to enroll lands in the Conservation Reserve Program – a vital program that protects water quality, improves soil health, and provides habitat for wildlife – would be severely capped or even eliminated, steeply reducing the demand for the program and the number of acres enrolled in it. Finally, the president’s budget request simply eliminates the Conservation Stewardship Program, the largest conservation program in the Farm Bill, which incentivizes farmers to implement conservation practices on working lands.
Just as in previous years, the Environmental Protection Agency takes the biggest hit in the budget proposal: the nonpartisan office responsible for protecting human health and the environment would see its funding gutted by nearly 27%. The Army Corps of Engineers would see its funding for restoration on the Missouri River slashed from a historically low figure of $17.7 million to an even more paltry $9.7 million. Funding to prevent the spread of invasive Asian carp into the Great Lakes via the Brandon Road Lock and Dam project is completely absent from the proposal.
In better news, the Army Corps of Engineers would see its construction budget for projects to restore the Florida Everglades grow under this budget request, from $200 million to $250 million. And funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was not cut in the president’s request, instead remaining steady at $320 million. That's good for wetlands restoration and the fight against invasive species in the Great Lakes.
But these bright spots are few and far between. The Chesapeake Bay Program, the largest restoration program for the nation’s largest estuary, would see its budget slashed from $85 million to $7.3 million. The president’s budget would also completely eliminate EPA’s 319 grants program, which provides funds to states to combat non-point source water pollution.
It's clear that this proposal does not reflect Americans’ conservation values. The work of League members and partners to engage Congress will now take on even greater importance as we push our elected representatives to pass an alternative budget that provides sufficient funding to protect our natural resources. That’s a spending plan we all can agree on: Investments in conservation, clean air, and clean water are investments in public health, outdoor recreation, and the economy.