On May 5, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, H.R. 244, authorizing appropriations to fund the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), which ends on September 30th, was signed into law by President Trump. Up until this point, the government had been operating under a continuing resolution (CR) for FY17 utilizing FY16 funding levels. The deadline for the CR was set to end on Apr. 28, but Congress passed legislation for a stopgap measure to extend the CR funding through May 5, thus avoiding a government shutdown.
During the one-week CR, Congress was able to finish discussions on FY17 and approve a budget with bipartisan support prior to the May 5 deadline.
The $1.163 trillion omnibus includes funding levels and policy provisions for 11 of the 12 standard appropriations bills — the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2017 passed last Congress.
Interior and Environment Appropriations
The Interior and Environment portion of the Act will provide $32.28 billion in funding for the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, and other related agencies.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is funded at $1.5 billion — an increase of $11 million from FY16 enacted levels. The Act prioritizes funding to reduce the endangered species delisting/downlisting backlog, control and prevent invasive species, and fight illegal wildlife trafficking. Provisions under the Act also continue a one-year delay on any further Endangered Species Act status reviews, determinations, and rulemakings for the greater sage-grouse. State and Tribal Wildlife Grants received $63 million, the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund received $38 million, and the Refuge system received $483 million; all modest increases from FY16.
USFS is funded at $5.6 billion. Of that amount, approximately $3.2 billion will go towards wildland fire prevention and suppression, and an additional $570 million towards hazardous fuels management. USFS Forest and Rangeland Research programs exclusive of Forest Inventory and Analysis dropped from $216 million in FY16 to $212 million in FY17. Provisions in the Act also prohibit USFS and the Bureau of Land Management from closing public lands to hunting and recreational shooting, except to maintain public safety, and prohibits administrative creation of new wilderness areas by Interior.
BLM is funded at $1.2 billion under the new legislation. This funding level includes an increase of approximately $9 million for on-the-ground sage grouse conservation. The Act also provides for the creation of a BLM Foundation “to undertake, conduct, and encourage programs and activities that support the mission of the Bureau.” Part of the foundation’s responsibilities will be to assist BLM with management of wild horses and burros. H.R. 244 authorizes about $80 million to wild horse and burro management and includes provisions that give the Secretary of the Interior authority to enter into multi-year cooperative agreements with non-profit organizations for long-term care of wild horses and burros, and to transfer excess wild horses and burros that have been removed from public lands to other federal, state, or local government agencies as work animals.
The U.S. Geological Survey appropriations totaled $1.1 billion. FY17 levels for USGS will fully fund the Landsat 9 program and maintain or increase funding for most mission areas. Ecosystems and Energy, Minerals, & Environmental Health saw small reductions from FY16 funding.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) will receive $400 million in FY17. This funding is $50 million below FY16 and prioritizes state and local recreation and battlefield preservation programs, while reducing federal land acquisition.
EPA will be funded at $8.06 billion — a reduction of $81.4 million from FY16. Specifically, research and regulatory programs funding decreased by $52 million. The bill includes provisions that dictate that staffing capacity at EPA will remain at 15,000 positions and prohibit the regulation of the lead content of ammunition and fishing tackle.
Agriculture appropriations were funded at $153.4 billion, which is a $12.8 billion increase from FY16 enacted levels. The Act provides more than $1 billion for Farm Bill Title II conservation programs and an additional $864 million for the Natural Resource Conservation Service Conservation Operations, which includes Conservation Technical Assistance.
Congress is eager to begin discussions for FY18 appropriations. When presenting the House amendment to H.R. 244, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) noted that seven months of FY17 had passed and that it was “time to look ahead and begin work on our 2018 priorities.”
Learn more about the U.S. Federal Budgeting Process in Section 5 of TWS’ Policy Toolkit.
|Jamila Blake is The Wildlife Society's Professional Development and Inclusion Manager.
Read more of Jamila's articles here.