Budgets for U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service Up in the Air
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.
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.
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.
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.
- The Senate Appropriations Committee would need to pass budget bills for the Forest Service and National Park Service.
- Both the House and Senate Appropriation Committees would need to pass any other remaining agency budgets.
- Next the entire House of Representatives and Senate would have to vote on their respective budget bills.
- 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.
- 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.
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