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Budgets for U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service Up in the Air

Posted by kkubitza at Aug 31, 2017 11:56 AM |

Congress has made some progress toward determining the budgets for the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service for the next fiscal year, which begins on October 1. However, they still have a lot of work to do. Here's what we know so far and what to expect in the months ahead.

Congress has made some progress toward determining the budgets for the National Forest Service and National Park Service for the new fiscal year, which starts on October 1. However, the budgets are far from being finalized and details on funding levels for specific programs is largely unavailable.

Here’s what we know so far and what to expect in the months ahead.

Cascade Pass.jpegFrom iconic places like Cascade Pass in the North Cascades National Park to remote backcountry trails in danger of becoming lost altogether, trail and road infrastructure on federal lands rely on federal funding. Photo by conman62.

Action in the House of Representatives

The House Appropriations Committee passed a budget bill for the Forest Service and National Park Service.

  • The good news: the cuts are not nearly as severe as the Administration’s proposed budget.
  • The bad news: the cuts fall significantly short of 2017 funding levels, which means the maintenance backlog on our federal public lands will keep growing. Failure to fully fund our federal lands impacts trails and road maintenance and repair.

DSC_5686.JPGThe road to Blanca Lake, West Cady Ridge and Quartz Creek trailheads on the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest has several major wash outs in need of repair, and is currently impassable by vehicle. Photo by Loren Drummond.

The budget scoped for the National Park Service is $64 million less than the 2017 budget and includes nearly $3 million in cuts to National Recreation and Preservation programs. These programs support our public lands in many ways, including funding for trails, land conservation and turning federal land into public parks.

The Forest Service budget is cut nearly $1 billion from 2017 levels including nearly $9 million in cuts to maintenance for trails, roads and other infrastructure.

Now that the bill has been passed by the Appropriations Committee it must next be voted on by the full House of Representatives.

Action in the Senate

The Senate has been slower to act than the House. At this time the Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet voted on a budget bill for the Forest Service or National Park Service.

The committee has established a maximum funding amount for the Department of Interior, which includes the National Park Service. That maximum funding amount is $600 million higher than the amount the House Committee passed. However, exactly how much money the Appropriations Committee will decide to spend and how that money is divided up among different departments and their programs is unknown.

Additionally, the Senate has yet to take any action on a budget for the Forest Service. Fully funding our public lands and providing additional funding to address the significant maintenance backlog is critical to keeping trails and public lands accessible.

Bridge repair on the Dungeness River Trail. Photo by Charlie RomineRepairing damaged trail structures like bridges, even using volunteers like this 2017 WTA crew on the Dungeness River trail in Olympic National Forest, requires federal funding. Photo by Charlie Romine.

What’s Next

The start of the 2018 fiscal year for the federal government is October 1. With just more than 30 days left until the start of the new year, it seems unlikely that Congress will actually pass a new budget. There are several difficult steps that would have to happen.

  1. The Senate Appropriations Committee would need to pass budget bills for the Forest Service and National Park Service.
  2. Both the House and Senate Appropriation Committees would need to pass any other remaining agency budgets.
  3. Next the entire House of Representatives and Senate would have to vote on their respective budget bills.
  4. Once the House and Senate have passed their budget bills they have to form a joint committee (known as a Conference Committee) in order to reconcile the differences between their bills. Reconciliation between the House and Senate can be very difficult and take a great deal of time.
  5. Finally, once the House and Senate come to an agreement on a final bill, it is voted on by the full Congress and then sent to the President for his signature.

Given the complexities of passing a bill by that date, a new budget will likely not be in place on October 1. More likely, the House and Senate will agree to continue the funding levels from the 2017 budget until they can agree on a new 2018 budget, which may take several months.

What You Can Do

Now is the time to contact your congressional representatives and ask them to fully fund the Forest Service and National Park Service as they determine their budgets.

  • Ask them to fund these agencies at the 2017 levels or higher and provide increased funding to address the maintenance backlog on trails, roads and other recreational facilities.

    Senator Maria Cantwell - (202) 224-3441
    Senator Patty Murray - (202) 224-2621
    Look up your House Representative

Here at WTA, we’re keeping up the pressure on Congress to fully fund both agencies. We’re talking with lawmakers, working in partnership with other organizations and connecting lawmakers with their constituents.

WTA will continue to do everything we can to ensure these agencies receive the funding they need to keep our public lands open, maintained and enjoyable.


Basketball3 on Budgets for U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service Up in the Air

Please save our forests by developing programs that address the root cause for fires and clean up the slash. Jerry Krause

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Basketball3 on Nov 13, 2017 09:27 PM