Continuing resolution passes as lawmakers hammer out funding bills

By Laura Bies

National Wildlife Refuges, such as Kodiak National Wildlife refuge, pictured here, would receive increased funding in FY 2020 under the recently released Senate Interior appropriations bill. ©Lisa Hupp/USFWS

The Senate sent the president a continuing resolution to fund the government through Nov. 21 as the Sept. 30 end of the federal fiscal year approached. While the House passed all 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2020 months ago, the Senate process has been slower, with the Senate Appropriations Committee just starting to approve most bills in late September.

On Sept. 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the spending bill funding the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Forest Service.  The bill provides $35.8 billion for those agencies in 2020 — close to the $37.3 billion included in the House version of the bill.

Under the Senate bill, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would receive $1.63 billion, an increase of $52.7 million above the FY 2019 level, while the U.S. Geological Survey would receive $1.2 billion, up $49 million from FY 2019.

The USGS Cooperative Research Units would receive $18.4 million in FY 2020 under the bill, the same funding as FY 2019. The Wildlife Society recommended funding $24 million for the Cooperative Refuge Units next year.

Within the Fish and Wildlife Service budget, the National Wildlife Refuge System would receive funding of $504.4 million, slightly below the $514 million included in the House bill, but $16 higher than FY 2019. In its written testimony, submitted earlier this year as congressional appropriators drafted their funding bills, The Wildlife Society recommended funding the Refuge System at $586 million next year.

The Senate bill would also provide $65 million — level funding — for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program, slightly less than the $71 included in the House bill. The Wildlife Society recommended funding the program at $90 million in FY 2020.

The Bureau of Land Management would be funded at $1.39 billion, an increase of $53 million from the previous year. However, neither the House or Senate version of the bill would provide funding for the Interior’s reorganization effort or the planned relocation of the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo.

The BLM would receive a $35 million increase to address wild horse and burro management under the Senate bill, while the House provided a $6 million increase over FY 2019’s level of $80.5 million.

Under the Senate bill the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be funded $465 million, less than the $523.9 million provided in the House bill. The LWCF was recently reauthorized at $900 million annually, but it is rare for the program to receive that much funding.

Other Senate appropriations bill have also advanced in recent weeks, some with repercussions for wildlife and conservation. For example, the Senate’s Homeland Security funding bill includes $5 billion for construction of a border wall along the United States-Mexico border.

However, the bill does include a provision that would prohibit border wall construction in several areas, including the National Butterfly Center, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, the La Lomita Historical Park and a parcel of land adjacent to the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge that will house a proposed SpaceX commercial spaceport.

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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