Firefighters and Cops Win In FY’19 Budget

You know the authoritarians are in charge when firefighters and cops get more money and everyone else gets less. That’s the bottom-line in Trump’s FY 2019 Forest Service budget.

Many dismiss the administration’s annual budget exercise because Congress makes the final appropriations decision. But, the budget reflects the administration’s philosophy and priorities. It guides how political appointees view public lands and the role of government in their management. In this respect, the proposed Forest Service budget is a caricature of the Trump Administration.

Firefighting, already enjoying the lion’s share of spending, gets an 8% boost, which would move it from 41% to 53% of Forest Service discretionary spending. With the entire FS discretionary budget slated for a 16% cut, something else has got to give . . . and give and give and give. The biggest losers are Capital Improvement and Maintenance, i.e., taking care of roads, bridges, buildings and campgrounds, which drops 74%, from $362 to $95 million. State and Private Forestry gets a 43%19% (two funds are shifted to Fire) haircut and Research is slashed by 15%. Timber, which drops 6%, isn’t exempt from the chopping block either. Perennial poor mouth Recreation & Wilderness is cut 9%.

What else goes up? Law enforcement by 2%. Marijuana growers beware!

15 Comments

  1. OK then if capital and maintenance $ will go down it’s time to rightsize the overlarge and poorly maintained road system. It’s literally washing away in places and causing damage to aquatic habitat and/or the loss of access to trailheads. The agency needs to make some tough choices and stop hoarding old roads. I have a pal who’s a regional director; he likes to compare the agency to a farmer who keeps all of his old tractors, etc. on the chance that he’ll use them again someday. Time to GET RID of LOTS of roads!!!
    As for recreation funding, that’s complete BS given the large increases in recreation use, growth of cities near NF’s, evidence that exercise helps us become a healthier society, no child left inside and lots of other reasons. Anyone heard about the growing recreation economy? It depends a lot on access to quality recreation experiences and infrastructure on public land.

    • OWM, I don’t think it’s that simple. As you know putting roads to bed also costs money. Plus it takes lots of planning work plus Forest Service recreationists want access. The fewer places folks can get to, the more crowding and so on. The most logical things is “pay if you use roads (then greater crowds yield more funding for impacts).” That doesn’t even work so well for public funding of highways…

  2. In these times of austerity the Trump bunch did somehow manage to set aside $18 Billion for “The Wall.” But they had to make some sacrifices: “Some agencies and programs — such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the TIGER grant program for infrastructure projects and the Community Development Block Grant program — would be eliminated.” http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/373413-trump-releases-2019-budget

    I don’t know how Trump or Pence could possibly get through the week without NPR’s Wait. Wait Don’t Tell Me or On The Media ….

  3. Eh, of course this won’t come to pass, but in looking at USFS and DOI budgets, one is amazed at how much money is spent for so little to show for it – does the govt really need to run a forest products lab that is, well, eons behind other agencies’ similar endeavors and/or that the private sector does on their own in the free marketplace? Or that we need to spend $70 million from EPA on Chesapeake Bay when we know that nitrogen from Pennsylvania cornfields and West Virginia chicken houses are the polluting culprits? Wouldn’t we be better served telling folks simply to minimize runoff…….we pay people to continue to document the problem when we know what it is and how to fix it. I defy anybody on the listserv to justify the $30 million that FWS spends on the Landscape Conservation Cooperative program that seems to just pay TNC to remake pretty GIS maps of where cypress swamps and alpine tundra are. Don’t we already know this? Good grief. It is due time. Here’s hoping Congress goes along with some of it in the Interior Appropriations.

  4. Treeman has a point or two. However, the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives are one of the few entities that are working to promote cross-boundary, multi-jurisdictional conservation planning. That is they are trying to help different agencies and levels of government and their partners work together to plan and to make plans work at larger landscape scales where many important issues need to be addressed. We’re not going to get there if we just work in our own silos. I think it is a good use of the Forest Service funding that is contributed. Here’s a recent example: http://greatnorthernlcc.org/event/982.

  5. I remember when these were getting started and seemed kind of duplicative of other planning efforts and/or duplicative of other research efforts. So I wonder whether someone can find a set of accomplishments that wouldn’t have happened without the LCCs. That’s what I would want to see if I were a member of Congress.

  6. Jon – bells and whistles. Virtually no take-home, tangible management recommendations therein. USFS, BLM, FWS, NPS, TNC, Naturserv, etc. already have this information. We already know about how and where umbrella species work and don’t work. We already know where the centers of endemism are. We already know that landscape level efforts to help New England cottontails in turn would be counter to those needed by hermit thrush. We already know that no matter how much pine needs to be thinned or cut in the Kaibab, it cannot be done because there are no sawmills/end-users. I went to a tripartite LCC roll-out once where the earnest employees showed the assembled state agencies (whom all talk to each other across state boundaries via Joint Ventures, species working groups, AFWA (and regional versions) to show them where “core” forests were and gosh amighty here are the places that would make great corridors to link core forests to help things like, well, bears. The state GIS chuckled that their states had these maps and these data in hand for 20 years. The game guys rolled their eyes in the knowledge that the concept of bears were already there, in many cases now state(s)-wide and something they wanted more not less of. Total disconnect between the LCCs and the real world of agency and certainly private lands management. Word on the street was that LCCs were a way for Dan Ashe to bury a select set of climate change folks into the FWS rather than to help manage wildlife.

  7. It would be fun for someone (Interior?) to line up all these efforts and see where they are duplicative and/or unnecessary, and take the saved $ to do something instead of more talking about the same old stuff. And for heaven’s sake, ASK the agencies and States and TNC if some new program will be helpful before rolling it out.

  8. You can get to the National Academy Sciences Review of LCCs here: https://lccnetwork.org/about/national-academy-sciences-review-lccs,
    which the LCCs say “concludes that a landscape approach is needed to meet the nation’s conservation challenges and that the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) provide a framework for addressing that need.” I was the Forest Service Northern Region representative to the Great Northern LCC in 2010-2012 and have worked with them some since then. It dovetailed well with the “all lands approach” to national forest management and planning, but I have had similar reservations about what the value added would be, and I can’t defend everything they’ve done.

    I would break what the value of LCCs into three things. They fund science. I agree there is a lot of information already out there and a lot of people producing more, but here’s one example of something that was new and useful because it looked at large scale effects and priorities. They supported research that produced an inventory of cold-water climate change refugia for at-risk aquatic species that was used by the Flathead National Forest to identify watersheds to be managed for that in their revised forest plan.

    They also promote solving big problems like climate change through broad-scale landscape conservation design. I agree that everyone is great at doing their own things and setting their own priorities. I’m not convinced that joint meetings to see what others are doing is enough to get everyone working towards the same goals. They need to jointly establish those goals. These design exercises will collaboratively identify priorities at a larger scale that their participants could try to work towards.

    That might be idealistic, but that’s where the third LCC role comes in. It’s described in this research: “This article reinforces the need for institutionalization of adaptive co-governance of social–ecological systems and suggests that Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) are bridging entities within a broader co-governance framework. LCCs, a network of conservation organizations both governmental and nongovernmental, have great potential to facilitate conservation of rapidly changing social–ecological systems by providing structure and incentives for collaboration and shared learning.”
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10871209.2012.709310
    The LCCs act as conveners, a glorified facilitator maybe, but it’s an important job that no one else was doing.

  9. The National Academy review was pure politics to put a positive spin on something that had no Congressional support nor support from even within USFWS. Their fact-finding was limited. The research support is pretty minimal, less than $500K per LCC per year, most far lower. Considering the staff, overhead, inability to move that money through cooperative agreements such as CESU, etc, meaning they must “park” money with Wildlife Management Institute for a fee, not much value-added on the research end. Shows nobody clearly thought through the process. The concept was cool perhaps and needed perhaps, but this is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, not the U.S. Landscape Service. Now they do well when there is a wildlife component, see Bird Joint Ventures or North American Waterfowl Plan, but in this case not so well. I suspect LCCs probably have worked best in Federal ownership dominated landscapes. The North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Appalachian and Gulf Coast LCCs are not and to my view done a horrific job of understanding the forestry, agriculture, and mining sectors that shape landuse and capability. Moreover, if you want to get the millions of acres of reclaimed coal mines in shape to serve as surrogate prairies with elk, grassland birds, honeybees, yet you approach the coal companies with “we are about climate change”, forget it. Heck so far as I know the LCCs don’t even realize there is NRCS and 1000s of WHIP/EQUIP Working Lands for Wildlife landowners. Some years ago I overhead a conversation between two LCC folks making sport of state agency pushing warm season grass restoration to benefit quail as kinda that pedestrian silly stuff. But quail are a community sentinel that are declining. They have a “constituency”. And well, warm season grass restoration is a climate change adaptation/migitation response I would recommend in the East.

    I bet if you walked in the door of the National Wild Turkey Federation in Edgefield SC and asked about LCC’s, they’d say “what?”

    There may be some good, but all in all, just another workfare program for a handful of people and some meetings for forest supervisors and regional office types to attend.

  10. The National Academy might be good folks to review it if the question was ” are they producing good science”. If the question is “are they adding value to ongoing planning efforts?” you would have to ask the States and other federal agencies.

    When they first came along, I said they had their zones were the most tone-deaf to social-political institutions of any I had ever seen (including national boundaries). You can click on this map to enlarge it.

    State folks in Colorado had to attend three sets of meetings.. I had to attend more than my share. Assuming that other states and feds have work to do.. there are opportunity costs associated with going to meetings and talking about stuff.

    Question.. about 30 years or so ago Interior centralized all their R&D with USGS.. whatever happened to that idea? I remember it wasn’t popular with the Fish People I was working with because researchers started working on “what was cool with other researchers” rather than “what the agencies needed.” Have all the Interior agencies regrown their own science and technology capacity?

  11. Here’s the opinion of some other supporters who know more about LCCs than I do:
    https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/68/2/60/4791429.

    First you have to believe that planning for climate change is important and can’t be effective when done in a piecemeal way. I am also interested in this: “the LCCs represent the first time any federal government has instituted a wildlife conservation program that promotes connectivity and persistence at the continental scale.”

    I like the quote they included from Sec. Zinke: “We’ve got to start looking at our lands in terms of complete watersheds and ecosystems, rather than isolated assets. We need to think about wildlife corridors, because it turns out wildlife doesn’t just stay on federal lands.”

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