Senate releases draft of FY18 interior appropriations bill

By Kaitlyn Miller

©Bob Wick

On Nov. 20, the Senate Committee on Appropriations released their Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies draft fiscal year 2018 (FY18) appropriations bill. The language recommends a total of $32.6 billion for agencies funded by this legislation, which is nearly $1.2 billion above the House appropriations bill and $300 million more than the current overall funding levels. The Department of the Interior, however, would see an overall drop in funding under this bill from $12.3 billion in FY17 to $12.17 billion in FY18.Certain agencies within the Interior Department, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would all see increases over FY17 funding levels if this legislation were to be enacted. Like the House bill, this version rejects a number of cuts proposed in the President’s FY18 budget request.

Agency Program FY18 Senate Appropriations FY18 House Appropriations FY17 Enacted FY18 Executive Request
FWS State & Tribal Wildlife Grants 63.6M 62.6M 62.6M 52.8M
State    (competitive) 6.4M 6.4M 6.0M 0
Tribal (competitive) 4.2M 4.2M 4.2M 3.9M
National Wildlife Refuge System 483.9M 483.9M 483.9M 470.1M
Ecological Services 239.1M 237.3M 240.0M 225.2M
NAWCA 40.0M 38.1M 38.1M 33.6M
NMBCA 3.9M 3.9M 3.9M 3.9M
Partners for Fish and Wildlife 50.3M 52.7M 51.7M 45.9M
Migratory Bird Management 48.4M 48.2M 48.1M 44M
Multinational Species Conservation Funds 11.0M 11.0M 11.0M 9.0M
Cooperative Landscape Conservation 13.0M 13.0M 13.0M 0
BLM Wildlife & Fisheries Management 113.2M 115.5M 115.8M 86.9M
T&E Species Management 20.3M 21.0M 21.6M 20.3M
Wild Horse & Burro Management 85M 80.6M 80.6M 70.7M
USGS Ecosystem Mission Area 154.1M 153.0M 159.7M 132.1M
Cooperative Research Units 17M 17.4 17.4M 17.3M
Climate Science Centers 25.1M 0 25.3M 0
USFS Wildlife and Fisheries Habitat 136.0M 136.4M 140.5M 125.0M
Forest and Rangelands Research 282.4M 278.4M 288.5M 259.0M
Department-wide Wildland Fire Management 949.7M 935.8M 942.6M 873.5M

Figure 1. FY18 Senate Interior Appropriations budget numbers compared to the FY18 House numbers, the FY17 enacted, and the FY18 President’s budget request, in millions of U.S. dollars.

A number of policy riders were also included in the Senate bill. Some of these mirror those included in the House version, such as one that would prevent any funds from being used by the Secretary of the Interior to issue an Endangered Species Act rule for the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) or the distinct Columbia basin population of the species. Another would prevent any funds being used to regulate the lead content of ammunition or fishing tackle.

The Senate also included policy riders unique to this bill language, such as the prevention of funds from being used to carry out any rulemaking on the ESA status of the lesser prairie-chicken.

Unlike the House version of the bill, this version still includes a policy rider that would prevent the euthanization of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros on Bureau of Land Management Lands. This rider was removed in the House version through an amendment by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) during the markup hearing in order to allow more flexibility for the BLM to manage America’s rangelands.

Typically, appropriations bills are marked-up by both the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and the entire committee, before being voted on by the full Senate. It would then go through the reconciliation process with the House version, before being passed by both chambers of Congress. Current reports suggest the Senate will skip the markup process and reconcile it with the House version as part of a year-end spending package. The current funding measure expires on Dec. 8, meaning that Congress needs to pass a short or long term funding bill in order to avoid a government shutdown. At this point it looks as if Congress will pass a continuing resolution that will retain current spending levels for a few more weeks, before moving further on FY18 appropriations.

Learn more about the U.S. Federal Budgeting Process in Section 5 of TWS’ Policy Toolkit and the United States Congressional Appropriations Process Policy Brief.

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

Read TWS’ Position Statements on The U.S. Endangered Species Act and Lead in Ammunition and Fishing Tackle.

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.