Response to Trump budget: Wilderness Society decries decline in care for America’s public lands

Mar 16, 2017

Mourning in America, sunrise in Washington, DC

Hallie Smith, The Wilderness Society
The fiscal year 2018 budget proposed by the Trump Administration would herald a new low for America’s shared public lands, says The Wilderness Society.

“It’s fitting for President Trump to release his budget in March, because this is simply madness,” said Cam Witten, Government Relations and Budget Specialist at The Wilderness Society.

“This budget would decimate the very foundation of what makes America great: our parks, public lands, and historic leadership on conservation. Instead of investing in conservation programs that provide clean drinking water, protect public health, and support a booming outdoor recreation economy, the Trump Administration is rigging the system to solely benefit oil and gas special interests and private developers at the expense of essential conservation programs that benefit all Americans.”

The nation’s land management agencies have seen their budgets cut and their workforces dwindle for years. This had led to many tough decisions: reduced visitor services and recreational investments, reduced scientific research and monitoring, compromised conservation and management decisions, growing maintenance backlogs, and other impacts. There is a significant and growing need for Congress and the Administration to invest in conservation programs.

The Trump administration FY18 proposal requests $11.6 billion for the Department of the Interior, a $1.5 billion or 12 percent decrease from the 2017. Funding for land acquisition and the essential Land and Water Conservation Fund, which invests in parks in virtually every county in the U.S., would also be slashed.  Cuts of at least $120 million to federal land acquisition would basically end public land investment under the Land and Water Conservation Fund, crippling enhancements to public access and national parks.

Over the past several decades, investments in conservation have fallen dramatically. The Congressional Budget Office projects that in the next decade federal spending on non-military programs will fall to the lowest level ever recorded.

In total, conservation and natural resource programs account for barely one percent of the federal budget, yet they provide invaluable benefits: clean air for children to breathe, clean water for families to drink, healthy public lands that support a booming outdoor recreation economy, vibrant wildlife populations, resilient ecosystems, and renewable energy that powers a clean, sustainable future. These benefits are foundational to the U.S. economy, and create high quality American jobs that cannot be exported.

Americans deserve a federal budget that protects public health, prioritizes conservation, and ensures the world we leave our children is cleaner, healthier and more sustainable than the one we inherited.

Federal agencies are doing everything in their power to meet their obligations, and they have been tremendously successful in doing more with less, tightening belts in every way possible before making decisions that impact program funding. Nevertheless, as a new report from The Wilderness Society will show, years of funding and staffing constraints have taken their toll.

The Wilderness Society, founded in 1935, is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. With more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org.   

Contacts:

Cameron Witten, Government Relations and Budget Specialist,202-429-8458, 240-893-2352 cell, Cameron_witten@tws.org

Michael Reinemer, Deputy Director, Wildland Communications, 202-429-3949, 703-966-9574 cell, Michael_reinemer@tws.org