From E&E News today….
Disappointing, but not surprising, reduction: “Funding for wildfire suppression would decline, from $1.5 billion to $1 billion, although a new emergency fund of $2.25 billion would be available to tap if regular suppression funds are exhausted….”
Wildfire management draws budget focus
The Trump administration’s proposed budget for fiscal 2019 would put money behind officials’ promise to more intensively manage national forests — but doesn’t predict much more timber coming out of them.
That’s one takeaway from the administration’s budget proposal for agriculture and forestry, which would slash some programs popular with lawmakers while boosting other initiatives. Overall spending would decline from the current fiscal year.
The president’s budget calls for more hazardous fuels reduction in Forest Service-managed lands, reflecting officials’ position that those areas have become more at risk for fire because of dry conditions and lack of maintenance over the years.
At least 1.1 million acres of national forest land would be treated for wildfire risk, the Agriculture Department said in budget documents.
But the proposal would maintain the current goal of 3.7 billion board feet of timber sold, a slight increase from the 3.2 billion board feet sold in 2018.
Overall, the proposal represents a mixed picture for forest programs.
The $450 million proposed for hazardous fuels reduction would be about $20 million more than this year, and the $375 million for forest products around $9 million more — both representing record-high levels, the administration said.
But total discretionary funding for the Forest Service would fall from nearly $6 billion this year to $5.1 billion as part of the administration’s plan. Funding for wildfire suppression would decline, from $1.5 billion to $1 billion, although a new emergency fund of $2.25 billion would be available to tap if regular suppression funds are exhausted — an arrangement Congress enacted beginning next year to avert the raiding of non-fire-related accounts by the Forest Service.
State and private forestry programs, which cover a wide variety of areas, from state parks to big-city tree-planting programs, would take a big hit, from $337 million in this year’s omnibus spending bill to $182 million in the president’s budget.
Land acquisition accounts would be eliminated at the Forest Service, and spending on capital projects would fall slightly under the 2020 proposal.
Other programs at USDA are also targeted for cuts, including crop insurance that’s covered in part by the federal government and some conservation programs. The administration proposed cutting the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program by $40 million a year and would eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program, which Congress renewed in the 2018 farm bill in December after extended House-Senate negotiations.
The proposal contains several revenue-raisers in a handful of USDA agencies, including a new user fee at the Forest Service to cover costs to streamline minerals permitting, the department said. That would generate $60 million in fiscal 2020, according to the budget.
An additional $130 million would come from retaining mineral receipts to pay for infrastructure projects, USDA said.