House Interior Appropriations approves Conservation and Recreation Increases
WTA has traveled back to Washington, DC for the past several years to make the case for increases in trail funding and conservation programs. With the administration proposing significant cuts in forest service appropriations, it has been an uphill battle. A recently approved Interior Appropriations budget gives us hope that our efforts may be bearing fruit.
In February of this year, the Bush Administration introduced a budget that proposed dramatic cuts in forest service appropriations. The agency faces a 16% across-the-board cut, translating into a 35% cut for trail and recreation programs. Slashing funds from an already-strapped agency that is facing the effects of heavy storms struck us as foolish, so we worked with Congressmen Inslee, Baird and Larsen to send up a budget request to the Interior Appropriations Committee, chaired by Congressman Norm Dicks. Congressman Jim McDermott signed onto the request as well. We asked for an increase of 5% over fiscal 2008 appropriations, for a total forest service operations budget of $1.581 billion. The committee released its budget document last week. Some highlights include:
- A $41.5 million increase over the administration budget for forest recreation programs, representing a nearly $16 million increase over the 2008 budget.
- $28.5 million more than the administration requested for forest trails, or an increase of $2.5 million over fiscal 2008.
- $25 million for State Land and Water Conservation programs, which the administration zeroed.
- The committee approved $132.2 million for Federal Land and Water Conservation programs, an increase of $90 million over administration-proposed funds.
It is unlikely that this budget will be approved until February of 2009, when a new president takes office, and it is likely to change by then. Still, we're very pleased with these increases, although putting the forest service back on sustainable budget footing will be the job of many years.
Washington's delegation deserves your thanks. Please take a moment to contact your Member of Congress and both of our Senators and let them know you appreciate their hard work on behalf of Washington's hikers. You can find them here. If you live in Congressman Dicks' district, please make a special effort to thank him for everything he's done to fund repairs at Mount Rainier National Park and statewide.