Agriculture budget proposal contains mixed bag for wildlife

By Laura Bies

The administration’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021 would reduce funding for the Agriculture Department, including agricultural conservation programs. ©USFWS

The administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal, released last week, would cut funding for some programs related to wildlife management and conservation within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The budget request, which does not have to be accepted by Congress, is the first step in setting the funding levels for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2020.

Funding for the Agriculture Department would decrease by 8% under the administration’s budget recommendations, which were released Feb. 10.

The U.S. Forest Service’s forest and rangeland research program would receive $249.3 million under the budget proposal, a decrease of $55.7 million from the FY 2020 enacted funding levels. The wildlife and fisheries habitat management program, within the National Forest System, would receive $139.6 million under the proposal, a slight increase from $138 million in FY 2020. The wildlife and fish research program within Forest Inventory and Analysis would be eliminated under the administration’s proposal, because according to the administration, it is less relevant to the agency’s current national research priorities and management than other programs.

Within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Damage Management program would receive $110 million under the proposal, up from $108 in FY 2020. The Wildlife Methods program would receive stable funding, at $19 million.

The budget proposal would make several changes to Farm Bill conservation programs. It would eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program, which provides financial and technical assistance to landowners who meet resource stewardship requirements on working lands. It would also reduce funding for the Conservation Reserve Program, which provides financial and technical assistance to farmers who replace crops on environmentally sensitive land with plantings that improve environmental quality, by $706 million in FY 2021. The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which provides easements that protect both working land and wetlands, would see a $40 million cut.

Within the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, two programs that promote research to determine best-management practices for public and private lands at public, land grant research institutions — the Renewable Resources Extension Act and the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Program — would receive stable funding under the proposal, at $4 million and $29 million respectively.

Congressional appropriators may consider the administration’s recommendations as they draft the appropriations bills for FY 2021, but they are not required to follow them. Indications from

House and Senate leadership are that they will follow the overall spending levels the Congress set last year, rather than invoke the budget cuts suggested by the administration.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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