Range improvement fund change proposed
BLM budget overview
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
February 9, 2008
According to information put out by the Bureau of Land Management this week, “The President’s FY 2009 budget request proposes to eliminate mandatory appropriations from the Range Improvement Fund that total $10 million annually. The Administration supports legislation that would amend the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to direct that the 50 percent of grazing fee receipts currently deposited in the Range Improvement Fund be deposited instead in the general Treasury. Responsibility for the construction and maintenance of range improvements would shift to public land users, public land advocacy groups, and state agencies.”
In other BLM budget news, with a focus on the protection and sustainable development of public land resources, the Bush Administration requested a $1.002 billion gross budget for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management in Fiscal Year 2009.
The FY 2009 budget proposal includes a $10 million increase for the BLM’s role in implementing Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne’s Healthy Lands Initiative, which supports landscape-level restoration work in key areas across eight Western states. These targeted areas have experienced numerous pressures – such as population growth, energy development, wildfire, and the spread of weeds – that affect the health of the land.
“Today’s budget proposal supports the BLM’s commitment to managing for healthy public lands in today’s fast-growing, fast-changing West,” said BLM Director Jim Caswell. “This funding will enable the BLM to address the key challenges facing our agency in the years ahead.”
Director Caswell said the BLM’s top priorities in 2009 and the coming years are to protect the health of public land resources, including wildlife habitat; to conserve resources in the management units comprising the National Landscape Conservation System, which includes Wilderness Areas and other sensitive resource areas; and to protect natural and cultural resources on public lands affected by illegal immigration on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Bureau also will promote America’s energy security through environmentally sound development on public lands; deal with increased recreational use of public lands and other impacts resulting from population growth; ensure visitor and employee safety; and maintain working landscapes by ensuring timely renewals of grazing permits and making forest woodland products available for commercial production.
Besides the increase requested for the BLM’s role in the Healthy Lands Initiative, operations funding for the BLM increases by $10.2 million, including funding most of the 2009 fixed costs increases. Other highlights in the Administration’s proposed BLM budget for 2009 include the following:
An $11.2 million increase in the oil and gas program to continue remediation of the Alaska North Slope legacy wells that pose significant threats to the Arctic environment.
An increase of $1 million for continued mitigation of resource damage resulting from illegal immigration and drug smuggling on public lands along the Southwest Border in support of the Safe Borderlands Initiative. This builds on a significant funding increase for Southwest border law enforcement provided in 2008.
Stable funding for wild horse and burro management.
A re-direction of some funding to areas experiencing rapid growth, where there is a greater need for the protection of resources from off-highway vehicle impacts.
The budget consolidates funding for the National Landscape Conservation System into a line item in the Management of Lands and Resources account and one line item in the Oregon and California Grant Lands account. This presentation will provide greater visibility and transparency to funding for the system of national monuments and other areas of special designation. The 2009 budget includes $22.3 million for the System and maintains $3 million of a $4.9 million increase provided by Congress in 2008.
In order to focus on operational funding needs, the budget reduces funding for land acquisition by $4.5 million and construction by $1.9 million. Funding for deferred maintenance is also reduced by $10 million.
The proposed $1.002 billion gross budget for BLM represents a net decrease of $5.8 million from the 2008 enacted funding level. The 2009 budget also proposes a cancellation of unobligated balances of $24.7 million, which results in a total net budget of $977.4 million. In the current fiscal year, BLM-managed lands will generate an estimated $5.1 billion in revenue, including royalties from oil and gas leases.
The BLM manages more land – 258 million surface acres – than any other Federal agency. Most of this public land is located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, and cultural resources on the public lands.
In a break from past budgets, the Department-wide Wildland Fire Management appropriation – starting in FY 2009 – will be reassigned from the BLM to the Office of the Secretary. The change will facilitate better fire-management coordination among four Interior agencies (BLM, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs).