Trump’s Budget Proposal Slashes Funding For Interior Dept

Chris White | Energy Reporter

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal makes double-digit cuts to the Department of Interior (DOI).

Trump’s 2018 budget, named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” requests an $11.6 billion funding level for the agency, equating to a $1.5 billion or a 12 percent cut from last year’s fiscal budget. The DOI is responsible for maintaining the country’s national monuments and federal lands.

The president’s budget, which was published Thursday morning, increases funding for programs that “support environmentally responsible development of energy on public lands and offshore waters.”

It would also allow the agency to streamline the permitting process and provide private industry access to untapped U.S. resources.

The budget contains a few cuts that will almost certainly be hotly contested. It eliminates, for instance, funding programs intended to prop up National Heritage Areas, which, the budget notes, “are more appropriately funded locally.”

Trump’s most consequential cuts include reducing funding for programs that support yoking more land under federal ownership. Trump intends to reduce new land acquisition funding by $120 million over last year’s budget.

Recent reports indicate the White House would recommend a 10 percent cut to the Interior Department’s budget. Interior’s budget — sans Trump’s cuts — is $13.3 billion.

Lawmakers confirmed Montana congressman Ryan Zinke, a Republican, to lead the agency. His opposition to federal land divestment runs contrary to many in his own party who want to shift ownership of federal land back to the states.

Environmental activists are highly critical of Trump’s focus on oil, gas, and coal development on federal lands. Zinke, who worked on Second Amendment issues in Montana, has signaled his willingness to balance fossil fuel development with environmental stewardship.

Trump campaigned on opening federal land to oil drilling, and, like Zinke, the president also believes the federal government needs to enter into shared governance with state governments in order to make sure federally-controlled lands are regulated more efficiently.

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