FY2018 Interior, Environment Appropriations Bill Released

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Committee on Appropriations today released the FY2018 chairmen’s recommendation and explanatory statement for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.

The recommendation totals $32.6 billion in discretionary funding, including $507 million in emergency firefighting funds.  The measure provides increased funding to address National Park maintenance backlogs and environmental and conservation programs, while also increasing funding for wildland firefighting and restoring proposed cuts to important Indian programs.

“The effective management of the nation’s natural resources is important, as is the government’s commitment to native peoples.  The chairmen’s mark establishes a Senate position for working with the House and the administration to reach an agreement to meet these priorities,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).  “I commend Senator Murkowski and her subcommittee for their diligent work on this bill.”

“I am proud of the work we have done in this bill to empower Americans to build our economy and create healthy communities for our families.  This bill provides funding critical to ensuring the health, well-being, and safety of the American people,” said U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.  “In this bill, we direct federal resources where they are needed by investing in programs aimed to protect our land and people, enable new infrastructure projects to boost the economy, and help communities provide vital, basic services.  Most importantly, the investments we’re making today will have an impact on our nation for years to come.”

Text of Draft FY2018 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/download/fy2018-interior-chairmens-mark

Explanatory statement: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/download/fy2018-interior-explanatory-statement  

Bill Highlights:

U.S. Department of the Interior – $12.17 billion overall for the Interior Department, including $465 million, for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – $1.23 billion for the BLM, a decrease of $16 million below the FY2017 enacted level.  Funds provided ensure a robust and responsible energy and minerals program and make important investments in improving public land management.    

National Park Service (NPS) – $2.94 billion for the NPS, an increase of $5.6 million above the FY2017 enacted level.  This includes important increases for construction backlog, maintenance, and new park units.  $20 million is included for the Centennial Challenge grant program which provides matching grants to address backlog maintenance and other needs in the national parks.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – $1.48 billion for the FWS, which is $40.4 million below the FY2017 enacted level.  Important program increases include funding for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).  The bill also provides funds to support FWS implementation of the RESTORE Act and to maintain continued operation of fish hatcheries.  The bill continues the prohibition on listing the sage-grouse as an endangered species, and includes a provision to allow the Service to move forward with its recommendation to delist the gray wolf the Great Lakes and to protect the decision to delist the gray wolf in Wyoming.  A similar provision was included in FY2011 to delist wolves in Montana and Idaho.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – $1.08 billion for the USGS, equal to the FY2017 enacted level.  Within this amount, important program increases have been included for energy and mineral resources, mapping, natural hazards, and water resources.  The bill also provides the requested funds for the Landsat 9 project and facility relocation expenses.

Office of Surface Mining – $252.2million for the OSM, a decrease of $897,000 below the FY2017 enacted level.  The bill continues a $105 million pilot program to help address reclamation and economic development in coal country and includes $10 million to address reclamation and economic development in Indian Country.

Indian Health Service (IHS) – $5.04 billion for the IHS, an increase of $1 million above the FY2017 enacted level.  The bill fully funds Contract Support Costs, representing the full amount of contract support costs owed to tribes.  Additional funds are focused on suicide prevention, domestic violence prevention, and alcohol and substance abuse problems.  Funds are also included for infrastructure improvements to health care facilities.

Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education (BIA/BIE) – $2.86 billion for the BIA and BIE, an increase of $7.5 million above the FY2017 enacted level.  Within this amount, Contract Support Costs are fully funded, human services and natural resource programs are continued, and important public safety and justice programs receive an increase. Construction activities and projects receive $206 million, a $14 million increase.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – $7.91 billion for EPA, $149.5 million below the FY2017 enacted level.  Funding is focused on returning the agency to its core mission of environmental cleanup.  The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds receive more than $2.26 billion, an increase over the FY2017 enacted level.  Additionally, the Water Infrastructure Finance Act (WIFIA) program is funded at $30 million, which will enable hundreds of millions in loans to address water infrastructure challenges.  Categorical grant programs that help states implement environmental regulations are increased by $25 million and the Superfund program receives a modest increase to help clean up additional sites.

The bill allows the EPA to move forward with its effort to define its authority under the Clean Water Act and continues a provision that prohibits the Agency from regulating certain types of ammunition and fishing tackle.

U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – $5.8 billion for the USFS includes investments in funding for improved health and management of our nation’s forests. Additionally, the full 10-year average for wildfire suppression is included, as well increased funding for hazardous fuels reduction to help prevent catastrophic wildfires.   

Wildland Firefighting – $3.6 billion to fight wildland fire, representing fire suppression funding at 100 percent of the 10-year average and emergency suppression funds made available in the event regular suppression funding is insufficient to cover the costs of fighting wildfire.  Also included in bill language is a fire cap adjustment that would end the destructive practice of “fire borrowing” and make fire suppression expenditures above 100 percent of the 10-year average eligible for disaster assistance, along with forest management reforms designed to reduce this risk of wildfire and improve management of national forests.

Smithsonian Institution – $878 million, an increase of $15 million above the FY2017 enacted level for the Smithsonian Institution. Important increases have been provided for the National Air and Space Museum renovation.

National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities – $149 million for each Endowment, equal to the FY2017 enacted levels.

Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) – $3 million, equal to the FY2017 enacted level, for the CEQ.