WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced on Tuesday, March 4 President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget request of $11.9 billion for the Department of the Interior, saying it makes key investments to maintain vital funding for Interior’s missions, in landscape-level conservation, balanced energy development, water management, engaging youth and veterans, addressing climate change, fulfilling commitments to American Indians and Alaska Native Tribes and Insular communities. An overview of the budget is available here.
“The President’s balanced and responsible budget strategy supports the pivotal role this Department plays as a driver of jobs and economic activity in communities across the country,” Secretary Jewell said. “The budget enables Interior to carry out its important missions and contains key proposals to uphold our trust responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives, provide a new approach for responsibly budgeting for wildland-fire-suppression needs, invest in climate resilience, and bolster our national parks and public lands in advance of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016. Importantly, the President continues to support full, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of the Nation’s most effective tools for expanding access for hunting and fishing, creating ball fields and other places for children to play and learn, and protecting Civil War battlefields.”
Interior’s programs and activities serve as economic engines in communities across the Nation, contributing an estimated $371 billion to the economy in 2012 and supporting an estimated 2.3 million American jobs. Of this total, energy and mineral development on Interior-managed lands and offshore areas generated more than $255 billion of this economic activity and supported 1.3 million jobs. Recreation and tourism on Interior-managed lands (more than 417 million visits in 2012) contributed $45 billion to the economies of local communities and supported nearly 372,000 jobs. And water supply, forage, and timber activities, primarily on public lands in the West, contributed more than $50 billion and supported 365,000 jobs.
The President’s $11.9 billion budget for Interior represents a 2.4 percent increase from the 2014 enacted level. The 2015 budget proposes to amend the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, to establish a new budget framework for the Wildland Fire Management program to provide stable funding for fire suppression, while minimizing the adverse impacts of fire transfers on other fire and non-fire programs, as well as reduce fire risk, manage landscapes more comprehensively, and increase the resiliency of public lands and the communities that border them. In this proposed new budget framework, $268.6 million of the funding need for suppression response is funded within the discretionary spending limits and $240.4 million is funded as an adjustment.
Interior programs continue to generate more revenue for the American people than the Department’s annual current appropriation. In 2015, Interior will generate estimated receipts of nearly $14.9 billion, a portion of which is shared with State and local governments to meet a variety of needs, including school funding, infrastructure improvements and water-conservation projects.
The President’s budget includes a legislative proposal to authorize an extension of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program for one additional year, while a sustainable long-term funding solution is developed for the program. This one-year extension would provide an estimated $442 million in 2015 to help counties that have nontaxable Federal lands within their boundaries.
The 2015 request also proposes revenue and savings legislation estimated to generate more than $2.6 billion over the next decade.
Celebrating and Enhancing America’s Great Outdoors
The 2015 budget invests in efforts to upgrade and restore national parks and other public-land areas, while engaging thousands of youth, veterans and others. The budget strengthens the President’s commitment to the America’s Great Outdoors initiative with a request of $5.1 billion in current funding for programs that include: operations of public land management units; the Land and Water Conservation Fund; and grants to States and others. This is an increase of $127.1 million compared to the 2014 enacted level.
The 2015 budget proposes a comprehensive Centennial Initiative to prepare the parks and public lands in advance of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016. The funding would provide targeted increases for a multi-year effort to recommit to the preservation of these special places, to invest wisely in the park system’s most important assets, to use parks to enhance informal learning, engage volunteers, provide training opportunities to youth, and to enhance the National Park Service’s ability to leverage partnerships to accomplish its mission.
The request for the Centennial Initiative proposes a $40 million increase in current appropriations in 2015, plus an additional $400 million in permanent funding each year for three years. That funding includes $100 million for a Centennial Challenge to match private philanthropy, $200 million for National Park Service facilities improvements, and $100 million for a Centennial Land Management Investment Fund to competitively allocate funds to meet conservation and maintenance needs among Interior’s land-management agencies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.
Complementing the budget request, the President’s Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative identifies investments of $100 million for National Park Service deferred maintenance and an additional $100 million for the Centennial Land Management Investment Fund.
Coupled with these efforts is a historic commitment to America’s natural and cultural heritage for Land and Water Conservation Fund programs. The Administration proposes to fully fund LWCF programs in the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture at $900 million in FY 2015, with $350 million in discretionary funding and $550 million in permanent funding. Beginning in FY 2016, the budget proposes to permanently authorize $900 million in annual spending to support programs that conserve lands and support outdoor recreation within Interior and the USDA’s Forest Service. Since 1965, this innovative program has used revenue primarily from offshore oil and gas development to enhance parks and open spaces in counties, large and small, across the Country.
Strengthening Tribal Nations
Sustaining the President’s commitment to tribal sovereignty and self-determination and honoring Interior’s trust responsibilities to the 566 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes and more than 2 million people served by these programs, the 2015 budget for Indian Affairs (Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education) is $2.6 billion, an increase of $33.6 million above the 2014 enacted level. The budget invests in advancing tribal self-determination and nation-to-nation relationships, supporting and protecting Indian families and communities, sustainable stewardship of energy and natural resources, and advancing education in Indian Country.
Recognizing this commitment to tribal self-governance and self-determination, the budget fully funds contract support costs that Tribes incur as managers of the programs serving Native Americans. The budget requests $251 million – a $4.0 million increase over the FY 2014 enacted level – to fully fund estimated contract support needs in 2015.
Supporting families and communities, the 2015 budget launches the Tiwahe Initiative, with an increase of $11.6 million in social services and job training programs to address the interrelated problems of child and family welfare, poverty, violence and substance abuse in tribal communities. Tiwahe is the Lakota word for “family.” Through this initiative, social services and job training programs will be integrated and expanded to provide culturally appropriate programs to assist and empower families and individuals through economic opportunity, health promotion, family stability, and strengthened communities.
Promoting public safety and tribal community resilience, the 2015 budget request includes resources to build on BIA Law Enforcement’s recent successes in reducing violent crime. A pilot program will be implemented to lower repeat incarceration rates in tribally operated jails on three reservations – Red Lake in Minnesota, Ute Mountain in Colorado and Duck Valley in Nevada – with a new Priority Goal to lower repeat incarcerations by a total of 3 percent by Sept. 30, 2015. The Alternatives to Incarceration Strategy will seek to address underlying causes of repeat offenses, such as substance abuse and lack of adequate access to social service support, through intergovernmental and interagency partnerships.
Support for Tribes also includes $112 million budgeted in the Bureau of Reclamation for water settlements and funds budgeted by the National Park Service for tribal historic preservation and the Fish and Wildlife Service to assist Tribes in managing wildlife.
The FY 2015 budget request is complemented by a proposal in the President’s Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative to further invest in economic development and education to promote strong, resilient tribal economies and improve educational opportunities in Indian Country.
Powering Our Future
As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, the 2015 budget provides $753.2 million for conventional and renewable energy programs, an increase of $40.7 million above the 2014 enacted level. The budget includes measures to encourage responsible, diligent development and a fair return for American taxpayers.
Funding for conventional energy and compliance activities totals $658.4 million, an increase of $37.5 million over the 2014 level. Spending from fees and permanent funding related to onshore oil and gas activities increase $49.1 million from the 2014 level, primarily reflecting a proposal to expand onshore oil and gas inspection activities and to offset the Bureau of Land Management’ inspection program costs to the taxpayer with fees from industry.
The budget includes $169.8 million for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and $204.6 million for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to support domestic energy production, including strong safety oversight of offshore operations, enhanced environmental enforcement functions, and expanded training and electronic inspection capabilities.
The 2015 budget includes $94.8 million for renewable energy activities, a $3.2 million increase over the 2014 level. This funding maintains the Department’s emphasis on strategic investments to advance clean energy and meet the President’s goal to approve 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy on public lands by 2020.
The 2015 request also includes a package of legislative and administrative proposals related to energy programs, including royalty reforms, changes to encourage diligent development of oil and gas leases, and improvements to revenue collection processes. In total, this package of reforms is estimated to generate roughly $2.5 billion in net revenues to the Treasury over the period 2015-2024, of which the legislative components are estimated to generate $1.7 billion.
Engaging the Next Generation
The 2015 budget supports Secretary Jewell’s vision to inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors by expanding volunteer and work opportunities for youth and veterans. The budget proposes $50.6 million for Interior youth programs, a $13.6 million (or 37 percent) increase from 2014.
A key component of the Department’s efforts will be partnering with youth organizations through the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. The proposed funding includes an increase of $8 million to expand opportunities for youth education and employment across the National Park Service; an additional $2.5 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuges Partnership; and a total of $4.2 million in Indian Affairs for youth programs including $2.5 million to engage youth in natural sciences. Support in the 2015 budget for the National Park Service Centennial will create thousands of jobs, and engage more than 10,000 youth in service and training opportunities and more than 265,000 volunteers.
Ensuring Healthy Watersheds and Sustainable, Secure Water Supplies
The 2015 budget addresses the Nation’s water challenges through investments in water conservation, sustainability, and infrastructure critical to the arid Western United States and its fragile ecosystems. The 2015 budget requests $1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages 476 dams and 337 reservoirs that deliver water to 31 million people. The budget also requests $210 million for the U.S. Geological Survey’s water programs, which provide scientific monitoring, research, and tools to support water management across the Nation.
The budget includes $66.5 million for WaterSMART programs, nearly a 17 percent increase from 2014, to assist communities in stretching water supplies and improving water management. This funding supports the Department’s goal to increase by 840,000 acre-feet, the available water supply for agricultural, municipal, industrial, and environmental uses in the Western United States through water-conservation programs by the end of 2015.
Interior extends this commitment to Indian Country, honoring Indian water settlements with investments totaling $172 million for technical and legal support and water settlements. This includes $147.6 million to bring reliable and potable water to Indian communities, more than a 9 percent increase from 2014. Among the investments is $90 million for the ongoing Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, which, when completed, will have the capacity to deliver clean running water to a potential future population of approximately 250,000.
The drought in California and other Western States underscores the importance of improving the resilience of communities to the effects of climate change. The President s Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative includes a $1 billion government-wide Climate Resilience Fund to invest in developing more resilient communities, and finding solutions to climate challenges through technology development and applied research.
Building a Landscape Scale Understanding of Our Resources
The 2015 budget fosters the sustainable stewardship of the Nation’s lands and resources on a landscape level by providing increases for scientific monitoring, research and tools to advance our understanding and ability to manage natural resources more effectively, while balancing important conservation goals and development objectives. Reflecting the President’s ongoing commitment to scientific discovery and innovation to support decision making to address critical societal needs and support a robust economy, the budget proposes $888.7 million for research and development activities across the Department, an increase of $60.4 million over 2014. This funding will increase understanding of natural resources and the factors impacting water availability, ecosystem and species resiliency, energy development, hazards mitigation, and climate resilience, among others.
Complementing this budget request are two components of the President’s Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative: an investment of $140 million for Interior research and development as part of a government-wide effort to jumpstart growth spurred by scientific discovery; and investments to address climate resilience to better prepare communities and infrastructure, and enable them to build greater resilience in the face of a changing climate.
In ecosystems across the Nation, Interior will continue to work with local communities to leverage its efforts to improve resiliency and achieve improved environmental and economic outcomes. The 2015 budget proposes to continue bridging of the Tamiami Trail in the Florida Everglades to improve water flows, invasive species control in the Great Lakes, restoration of fragile environments in California’s San Joaquin River and Bay Delta, and wetlands restoration along the Gulf Coast.