The president’s FY2016 budget was released on Monday, February 2. It is reflective of the Administration’s priorities for increased conservation efforts, the President’s Climate Action Plan and smart budget solutions for dealing with wildfire suppression. This signal from the White House regarding an overall increase in conservation programs supports American Forests’ mission to restore threatened forests ecosystems and protect urban and wildland forests.
The following are some highlights of American Forests priorities:
- The focus by all land management agencies on youth engagement is heartening as we seek to encourage and inspire the next generation of forest stewards.
- The U.S. Forest Service proposed a $20 million increase to $60 million for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLR), seeking to add 10 more projects to the existing 23.
- American Forests is pleased that the Administration proposed full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million. $100 million is allocated to the Forest Legacy program, with $61 million of that coming from discretionary funds.
- Bureau of Land Management Public Domain Forest Management gained an increase to $9.98 million. The President’s budget also includes an increase for the National Conservation Lands to $48.47 million. This investment will address high-priority needs in conservation areas, including providing basic support for recreation and visitor services.
- In recognition of the National Parks Centennial in 2016, the budget proposes $3 billion to maintain, upgrade and restore the national parks. It includes $100 million to provide a more robust investment in the Centennial Challenge and provides at least $300 million to significantly address the deferred maintenance backlog.
- A proposed increase to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge System to $508.2 million focuses on operations and maintenance of refuges in rural and urban areas.
- American Forests is pleased to see an increased support for green infrastructure throughout the EPA’s budget, including the Clean Water State Revolving Funds as well as support throughout the federal agencies for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.
- Despite American Forests’ success in getting urban forests highlighted as a priority in the Administration’s Climate Resiliency Agenda, we are concerned about the proposed 16 percent decrease to the Urban and Community Forest program. The justification behind this decrease is the expansion of the competitive Landscape Scale Restoration grant program, where urban projects can also be funded. However, Congress has not expanded this program in the past, and a proposal of only $24 million could result in lower funding for the program.
- American Forests is also concerned with the 11 percent reduction in Forest Health Management on Cooperative Lands and another decrease in Forest and Rangeland Research. These efforts help identify the best restoration efforts as well as the threats that face our urban and wildland forests. Without adequate funding for these efforts, the nation’s forests will suffer.
American Forests hopes that Congressional members of the Appropriations Subcommittees for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies will use this focus on land and water conservation to help shape and inform the budget process for the rest of the year.
The Senate Appropriations Committee announced the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee members on January 29. Subcommittee members include:
- Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
- Ranking Tom Udall (D-NM)
- Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
- Thad Cochran (R-MS)
- Roy Blunt (R-MO)
- John Hoeven (R-ND)
- Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
- Steve Daines (R-MT)
- Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
- Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
- Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
- Jack Reed (D-RI)
- Jon Tester (D-MT)
- Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
The House of Representatives Appropriations Interior Subcommittee members include:
- Chair Ken Calvert (R-CA)
- Ranking Betty McCollum (D-MN)
- Mike Simpson (R-ID)
- Tom Cole (R-OK)
- David Joyce (R-OH)
- Chris Stewart (R-UT)
- Mark Amodei (R-NV)
- Evan Jenkins (R-WV)
- Chellie Pingree (D – ME)
- Derek Kilmer (D-WA)
- Steve Israel (D-NY)
To help ensure that conservation programs receive the levels of funding they need, American Forests will continue our advocacy and educational efforts on the Hill to garner congressional support for our forest conservation priorities.