The Federal Budget

Where we can discuss any public land issues and our Adopt-A-Trail.
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If this budget passes I would guess that there will be a lot of cost cutting within the FS and the BLM. One way they can help offset these cuts is by using volunteers. But I suspect they will answer with the closing more roads and trails, maybe even whole areas. We were at a meeting with some SB county officials and it was stated that SB county had a 5.5 billion dollar budget with 4.5 billion allocated for social services 200,000 going to PD and FD and the rest to run the rest of the county. something seems out of whack.

While President Trump was on his 9 day international trip, his Administration released its budget for FY 2018 and the best way to describe how it was received on Capitol Hill is probably summed up by the comments of Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). He said “this budget was dead on arrival even before the ink was dry” on the document. And while he is probably correct, the size of some of the proposed cuts for a number of the agencies, including the land agencies, provides for a lot of concern.

Here’s a snapshot of what we are talking about:

Department of the Interior cut by 11% – $1.6 billion. (FY 2018 $11.5 billion vs. $13.1 billion in FY 2017)
BLM Recreation budget cut by $9 million (FY 2018 $62.7 million vs. $71.7 million in FY 2017)
Forest Service Trails cut by $64.8 million (FY 2018 $12.7 million vs. $77.5 in FY2017)
Forest Service Recreation cut by $11.7 million (FY 2018 $252.9 million vs. $264.6 in FY 2017)
National Park Service reduced by $200 million (FY 2018 $2.225 billion vs. $2.425 in FY 2018)
BLM Recreation cut by $9 million (FY 2018 $62.7 million vs $71.7 million in FY 2017)
Land and Water Conservation Fund cut by $139 million (FY 2017 $51 million vs. $189 million in FY 2017)

Right now we have the numbers, but we still don’t know what this all means for the programs on the ground. More information will be forthcoming during the congressional hearing process. Clearly a number of jobs at the local level will be affected since more than 4,000 jobs will be eliminated at Interior if the FY 2018 proposal is approved. Secretary Zinke has suggested that personnel from Washington headquarters and regional offices would be dispatched to local offices to make up staffing deficiencies, as needed. Potentially, the proposed cuts in the Forest Service trails budget would have a serious impact on recreation, but the numbers don’t break down as to the type of recreation affected.

Now the hard part is left to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees as they try to cobble together an overall spending plan that will be acceptable to the White House while minimizing some of the huge cuts being sought by the Administration. In terms of the process, the committees are already two months or so behind schedule because of their work in completing FY 2017 funding, as we reported in our last newsletter. Another wrinkle in terms of the congressional calendar is the possibility that the Congress will need to raise the debt ceiling BEFORE the August recess. This is new news because the Hill was operating on the assumption that the debt ceiling issue would be handled sometime in the fall.

In the months ahead, we will be discussing more about these proposed cuts and how the Hill is handling the challenge of this new budget proposal. Access to public lands could be seriously affected, but at this juncture we just don’t know how.
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