Trump administration requests refuge funding increase

By Laura Bies

National Wildlife Refuges would see an increase in funding levels in fiscal year 2020 if the president’s request is implemented by Congress. ©Diana Robinson

The Trump administration recently requested an increase in funding for national wildlife refuges for the Fiscal Year 2020 federal budget.

This comes just weeks after the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations were finally agreed upon by Congress and the president.

While the overall spending levels for the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would decrease if the president’s budget recommendations are implemented by Congress, national wildlife refuges would see an increase in funding levels.

The president’s request includes $509.5 million for operations and maintenance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. The refuge system received appropriations of $487 million in FY 2018 and $488 million in FY 2019. The funding level of $509.5 million would be the largest ever for the refuge system that contains more than 850 million acres of land and water across over 600 units.

Included in the FY 2020 request for the NWRS is $239.4 million for wildlife and habitat management, an increase of about $5 million from FY 2019. The administration calls for the focus in FY 2020 to be on “improving wildlife and habitat through activities such as forest management to promote healthy wildlife populations,” according to budget documents.

The request also includes $146 million for refuge facility and equipment maintenance, an increase from $140 million in FY 2019, and an additional $5 million to expand invasive species control efforts. Those efforts can include establishing more specialized strike teams across the country to apply early detection and rapid response techniques.

In addition, the budget request would allocate $43.2 million within the refuge budget for law enforcement efforts, up from about $38 million in FY 2019. According to budget request, that funding “ensures the safety of the more than 55 million annual visitors across the refuge system, prevents poaching and other illegal activities that may harm wildlife and their habitats, and assists U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in their critically important efforts to secure our borders.” There are currently 261 law enforcement personnel for the entire refuge system.

In the final FY 2019 appropriations for the refuge system, congressional appropriators directed the Service to request additional funding to ensure that adequate law enforcement resources were present at each refuge.

Congressional appropriators, who have begun work on the FY 2020 budget, can consider the recommendations of the president as they draft their appropriations bills, but they are under no obligation to follows those requests.

TWS is a member of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), a coalition comprised of 23 organizations support robust funding for the refuge system. CARE recommends funding of $900 million annually for refuge operations and maintenance.

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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