Interior and EPA Appropriations Bill passes house committee

By Kaitlyn Miller

©Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington (BLMOregon)

The $31.456 billion spending bill on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies for fiscal year 2018 (FY18) was approved by the House Appropriations Committee late on Jul. 18. The bill would give the agencies $824 million less than FY17 enacted levels, but $4.3 billion above the President’s budget request. The bill advanced out of the committee in a 30-21 roll call vote.

Of the over $800 million decrease from the FY17 Interior appropriations, $528 million (64 percent) of the cut came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Included in the cuts to EPA, the Clean Water Fund was reduced to $1.1 billion ($250 million below FY17 and the President’s budget request). The bill includes cuts to several agencies from FY17 levels (Figure 1/see below).The bill rejected a number of cuts expressed in the President’s FY18 budget request for these agencies and others under the Department of the Interior, the EPA, and other related agencies.

Agency Program FY17 Enacted FY18 House Appropriations FY18 Executive Request
FWS State & Tribal Wildlife Grants 63M 63M 53M
State (competitive) 6M 6M 0
Tribal (competitive) 4M 4M 3M
National Wildlife Refuge System 484M 484M 470M
Ecological Services 240M 237M 225M
NAWCA 38M 38M 24M
NMBCA 4M 4M 4M
Partners for Fish and Wildlife 52M 53M 46M
Migratory Bird Management 48M 48M 44M
Migratory Bird Joint Ventures 13M 13M 11M
Multinational Species Conservation Funds 11M 11M 9M
BLM Wildlife & Fisheries Management 103M 103M 75M
T&E Species Management 22M 21M 20M
Wild Horse & Burro Management 81M 81M 71M
USGS Ecosystems Mission Area 160M 153M 132M
Cooperative Research Units 17M 17M 17M
Land Resources 120.6 M 112.8 M
USFS Wildlife and Fisheries Habitat 140M 136M 125M
Forest and Rangelands Research 289M 278M 259M
Department-wide Wildland Fire Management 943M 936M 874M

Figure 1. FY18 House Interior Appropriations Committee budget numbers compared to FY17 enacted and the FY18 President’s budget request.

The bill maintains funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at the FY17 level of $300 million, supporting the ongoing work to control invasive species, reduce harmful algal blooms, and protect watersheds important to human health and drinking water. The House Appropriations Committee also restored funding for the control of invasive species, in particular the zebra and quagga mussels and Asian carp. It maintains funds at the FY17 levels for efforts to combat wildlife trafficking at $7.5 million, recognizing the national security implications of the trade.

During the Jul. 18 markup hearing, the committee passed an amendment by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) that would allow for more flexibility to euthanize wild horses and burros to better manage America’s rangeland. An amendment proposed by Nita Lowey (D-NY) that would have protected the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling failed.
A number of policy riders were also in the bill — prohibiting USFWS from revisiting the ESA status of the Sage Grouse; requiring the Secretary of the Interior to reissue final rules to delist wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes and exempt the rules from judicial review; prohibiting funds to treat any gray wolves in the lower 48 as threatened or endangered; and prohibiting funds to regulate the lead content in ammunition or fishing tackle.

Although the bill passed the House Appropriations Committee, there are still a number of steps before it will be made into law. Once the bill passes the entire House, conference committees from both chambers will take the appropriations bills from both the House and Senate and reconcile the differences to create a new bill. Then that bill will have to be passed by both Chambers before it goes to the President — he decides whether to sign the bill, veto the bill, or allow the bill to become law without his signature after 10 days.

Learn more about the U.S. Federal Budgeting Process in Section 5 of TWS’ Policy Toolkit.

Read TWS’ Issue Statement on Feral Horses and Burros in North America.

Kaitlyn Miller is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Wildlife Policy and Programs team. Read more of Kaitlyn's articles here.