President's FY 2007 Budget Reduces Recreation Spending

ARC offers this initial overview of the President’s FY 2007 Budget. We will update the website with additional details and clarifications as our understanding increases.

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

(Washington, D.C.) - Secretary Gail Norton emphasized three areas of strategic focus for the FY 2007 Department of the Interior budget released February 6th at a press briefing: collaborative approaches and partnerships, facilitating energy production and continuing Indian trust reform. She stressed that the theme of working with partners appears throughout the budget, and that the Cooperative Conservation program which leverages non-federal investments in stewardship, will receive a boost under this budget request. The second strategic focus is implementing the Energy Policy Act of 2005 Act through increased exploration, development and leasing of diverse energy resources, both on federal lands and in deepwater areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Action by Congress to open the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration and development, and an initial ANWR lease sale in 2008, are assumptions of the budget. Overall, the current appropriations request of $10.5 billion represents a decrease of $321.9 million or 2.9% below the FY 2006 enacted level, excluding hurricane funding. Permanent funding sources will add an additional $5.6 billion, for a total Interior budget of $16.1 billion.

The overall DOI budget includes $1.2 billion to support recreation goals, including improving access to recreation opportunities. Program reductions of interest to the recreation community include no funding for LWCF Fund State grants, a $29.7 million reduction from FY 2006 levels. According to Secretary Norton, budget request reductions are targeted at programs identified as “less central to Interior’s core mission”, programs that are duplicative, or those, like the LWCF State Grant program, which are deemed more appropriate for state and local funding. The federal side of the LWCF survived, but is reduced to $91 million in the FY 2007 budget request. The Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program remains unfunded for a third year. What follows is a summary by agency of budget items of interest to the recreation community.

National Park Service: The Bush Administration’s proposed Fiscal Year 2007 appropriated budget request for the National Park Service is $2.2 billion (a reduction from FY 2006 of approximately $100.4 million) and includes $1.7 billion in funding for Operation of the National Park System, a net increase of $23.4 million over the FY2006 enacted level. According to a Park Service news release, these increases will help parks with interpretive ranger programs, staffing at visitor centers, daily maintenance services and other programs designed to enhance visitor services. Recreation and Preservation programs will be funded at $33.3 million, a reduction from FY 2006 caused in part by the shifting of the Heritage Partnership program to another budget category. The recreation line item alone is $557,000, a slight increase from FY 2006. Natural and Cultural programs add a further $29 million to the budget, but are reduced from FY 2006 by $300,000.

The FY 2007 budget requests an appropriated investment of $623 million for facility maintenance and construction. The budget request assumes an investment of $210 million from the Highway Trust Fund for park roads and parkways and the additional use of recreation fee revenues for facility maintenance projects. A total of $911,000 is requested in the FY 2007 budget to improve concessions contracting oversight so NPS can achieve its program goals of reducing the contracting backlog and effectively managing the concessions program.

In support of a new focus of the NPS on protecting and maintaining existing assets rather than funding new construction projects, the administration proposed $84.6 million decrease in new construction spending. The proposed budget also eliminates funding for State assistance grants which helped to pay for improvements to state and local parks. The Challenge Cost Share program is level-funded at $2.4 million, the enacted appropriation for FY 2006. The Rivers, Trail and Conservation Assistance program has been reduced by $500,000 to $7.7 million. The FY 2007 proposal combines the funding for three programs, Preserve America, Save America’s Treasures and Heritage Partnership programs into a unified $3.32 million American Heritage and Preservation Partnership.

Bureau of Land Management: There is much emphasis in this budget request on increasing energy development and production on BLM lands, with an increase of $25.4 million to increase domestic energy supplies and implement the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

The total budget request for BLM is $1.8 billion, an increase of $18.7 million over the FY 2006 enacted level. In the FY 2007 budget category for Recreation Management, which includes Recreation Resources and Wilderness Management, the budget request is $63.76 million, a reduction of $1.36 million from FY 2006 as enacted. $1.02 million of the reduction comes from recreation management and $344,000 from wilderness management. A budget explanation notes that a substantial portion of the reductions are from increased efficiencies and IT improvements. The request for fisheries management is up by $325,000. The FY 2007 budget request includes $6.5 million for all construction projects, a decrease of $5.3 million over FY 2006 enacted level. $75.4 million is requested for maintenance, $38.2 of that for deferred maintenance.

The administration’s budget document leaves intact the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA). The program has produced almost $3 billion from land sales near Las Vegas. 85% of the Nevada receipts are deposited into a special fund for BLM conservation purposes with the remainder shared with local and state governments for infrastructure improvements, including water systems and education.

The administration will propose to amend BLM’s land sales authority under the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) so that 70% of the net proceeds of land sales are returned to the US Treasury for general deficit reduction and adding a $60 million annual cap to the amount BLM can retain from these sales for in holding acquisitions and restoration projects.

Bureau of Reclamation: The total current appropriations request is $883.6 million, a reduction from FY 2006 as enacted of $137.2 million, including the cancellation of $88 million in unobligated funds balance for the At Risk Desert Terminal Lakes program. Although recreation spending is not an isolated line-item in the budget request, funds are included for the federal share of rehabilitation of recreation at reclamation constructed reservoirs in the Colorado River Storage project area. The budget breakdown is:

  • $376.9 million for facility operations, maintenance, and rehabilitation - of which $69.0 million is targeted for the Dam Safety program to protect regional water supplies and the downstream public by ensuring the safety and reliability of Reclamation dams;
  • $456.5 million for water and energy management and development, land management and development, and fish and wildlife management and development.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: FY 2007 request for current appropriations is $1.3 billion, a reduction of $23.5 million from FY 2006. Funding for the operation and maintenance of the National Wildlife Refuge system (NWR) is funded at $318.7 million, a decrease of $763,000. However, the challenge cost share program is increased by $4.3 million to fund non-federal community partnerships. NWR visitor services receives a boost of $3.2 million over FY 2006 to $65.2 million, but there is a reduction of $985 thousand in the facility enhancements budget. The NWR maintenance budget is also reduced by $1.7 million to $131.7 million. This budget also proposes an increase of $2.2 million for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund for the restoration and enhancement of wetland habitat. A net decrease of $2.1 million is requested for the Fisheries program, but there are increases in the area of fish passage improvements.

To see the Department of the Interior’s FY 2007 Budget in Brief, click here.

USDA Forest Service: The USDA Forest Service budget request is for $4.1 billion in discretionary funding, down $177.4 million from FY 2006. $610 million in the 2007 budget is dedicated to continuing implementation of the Healthy Forests Initiative to reduce hazardous fuels and restore forest health. Recreation, Wilderness and Heritage programs will see a 4% reduction to $250.8 million under the FY 2007 request. Wildlife and Fish Management programs would be reduced by 7% to $123.5 million. The budget for Capital Improvements and Maintenance is proposed at $382.6 million, a $56.2 million reduction from FY 2006. The Forest Legacy program fares better with a 9% increase to $61.5 million.

The proposed USFS budget includes a legislative proposal that provides $800 million above the current baseline for a five-year extension of forest county safety net payments by amending the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act. Under an extension of the law, these payments would be targeted to the most affected areas, capped and adjusted downward each year to phase out in FY 2012. To provide a funding basis to offset these payments from the U.S. Treasury, the proposal would authorize the conveyance of parcels of forest land that are isolated or inefficient to manage due to location or other characteristics. Because of the Forest Legacy and land acquisition programs, there is no expected net loss of lands protected by Forest Service action.

To see the USDA Forest Service Budget Summary, click here.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: The Fiscal Year 2007 budget for the U.S. USACE includes $4.733 billion in federal funding for the Civil Works program, $3.79 billion of this is from the general fund, the rest from various trust funds and fees. The overall Corps budget is reduced by 11.2%, Mr. John Paul Woodley, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), said, "The Army Civil Works budget for Fiscal Year 2007 is the highest budget ever proposed for the Civil Works program.”

The recreation program overall budget is $267 million. The budget re-proposes a recreation facility modernization initiative based on a model in use by other federal recreation providers. A portion of the cost to maintain and upgrade recreation facilities would be accomplished by using additional revenues from expanded user fees, and through innovative planning, management and financing partnerships with non-federal interests. In the area of conservation, the budget includes $164 million for projects to restore the Florida Everglades.

To see FY 2007 Army Civil Works budget information, including a state-by-state breakdown, click here.

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

The Department’s $65.6 billion budget proposal fully funds the 2005 “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Act: A Legacy for Users” (SAFETEA-LU) at nearly $50 billion for transit, highways and safety programs, a $3.3 billion increase over 2006 as authorized by SAFETEA-LU. Barring future budget rescissions like those reducing FY 2006 appropriations, budgeted increases in funding for the Recreational Trail Program, the Transportation Enhancements, ITS and Scenic Byways funded under SAFETEA-LU appear safe.

The proposed budget also includes a new $100 million pilot program to test the viability of alternatives to the gasoline fuel tax for financing highway construction and managing congestion. The program calls for partnerships with up to five states to test fees, tolls and other approaches designed to examine new ways to raise revenue, according to Secretary Mineta.

For a detailed Budget in Brief, click here.