(Washington, DC, June 20, 2005) The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2006 Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill on June 9 (HR 2361).
The bill funds the Forest Service, including State and Private programs such as Urban and Community Forestry (U&CF). EPA is now funded through the Interior bill as well, reflecting committee restructuring for a number of federal programs.
The Senate bill awards $28.675 million to U&CF, an increase of $1.2 million over the President’s budget. The House bill, passed May 10, awarded the program $28.175, an increase of $700,000 over the President’s budget. The Senate’s higher budget is largely accounted for by earmarks. This reflects the third year of cuts to the program since its high of $36 million.
The budgets for both bills reflect a difficult budget environment where few programs have seen increases. Both Senate and House budgets for the total State and Private Forestry budget were within $1 million of the Administration’s budget of $253.4 million, a $39.1 million drop in funding from the previous year. Nonetheless, popular programs with vocal constituencies, such as Forest Legacy, did fare better in the Senate and the Administration’s budget.
It is expected that the full Senate will consider H.R 2361 during the week of June 27. Given the action on the bill to date, it is possible that the conference agreement could be finalized prior to summer recess, which begins on July 30 and runs through Labor Day.
How to Get Involved
While there is little hope of changing the budget outcomes for U&CF in this cycle, now through June 27 is still a good time to communicate to your Senators a) your interest in the Urban and Community Forestry program, b) how the U&CF program is at work in your state, and c) how cuts in U&CF funding are impacting programs in your state. Let your Senators know that U&CF is an important federal program, that you hope to see increases to the budget in the future, and that you appreciate the tough decisions your elected officials are making in this tight budget climate. Also tell them what you, as a private non-profit, are doing to help urban forests in your community. The U&CF program should in the future be funded at a $50 million investment to better serve the needs of the nation. The best way to do this is still on your letterhead, sent by fax, not mail. Surface mail is now impossibly slow; follow your fax with a hard copy.
A similar letter to your Congressman anytime this summer is appropriate. This is an opportunity to express your interest/concern for the impacts that three years of federal budget cuts are creating in your state. Most states have experienced losses, both in what they receive from the federal U&CF program and in what they receive from state tax rolls. Lower state budgets have resulted in less grant money available to community non-profits and local governments as well as less staff hours for technical assistance. If you don’t know how budget losses have impacted your state or region, a call to your state urban forest coordinator could tell you what the budget history is and what adjustments the state has had to make as a result.
General Tip – Keep in touch with the local office for your Congressman and Senators even when you don’t want something. Let them know what you do, keep them on your newsletter and invitation lists, and tell them how you help their district. This positions you as a credible source for when you do ask for support for federal programs of value. Not only that, they may want your advice as an expert.
Other Programs of Note
In response to a President’s budget request of $154 million for federal acquisition through LWCF and compared to the FY04 enacted level of $166 million, the Senate bill contained $162 million for federal LWCF. This is a far higher level than the House bill, which contains $43 million, none of which is for specific acquisitions. In addition, the Senate partially restored funding for the state grant program (“stateside grants”) of LWCF, funding it at $30 million rather than zero as recommended by the President and the House (and last year’s enacted level of $92.5 million).
The Senate bill recommends $65.632 million for the USDA Forest Legacy Program. While the Senate recommendation is less than the President’s budget proposal of $80 million, it is far more than the House-passed level of $25 million (with no specific earmarks) and is an increase over last year’s enacted level of $58 million.
Section 6/ Cooperative Endangered Species Fund: $80 million (slightly below the enacted level of $82 million and the House-passed level of $84.4 million but consistent with the President’s budget request)
State and Tribal Wildlife Grants: $72 million ($3 million more than last year’s enacted, $7 million more than House level, and $2 million less than President’s budget request)
Landowner Incentive Program: $25 million ($3.3 million more than last year’s level and slightly more than the House-passed level of $23.7 million)
UPARR: $0 (same as last year, House recommendation and President’s budget.) UPARR stands for Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery, local grants for urban areas used for city parks; the program has been unfunded for many years.
Note: for the first time ever, the Interior appropriations bill also includes funds for the EPA. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is proposed at $850 million instead of $1.1 billion provided last year, and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is also at $850 million, a $7 million increase over last year. For the brownfields program, the bill would provide $95.5 million for grants — an increase over the current funding level of $89.3 million.
For specific information on the House and Senate versions of H.R. 2361, click on http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app06.html, scroll down to “Interior” in the left hand column and click on either the House or Senate reports.
Credits: Thanks to the Trust for Public Land for information contained in the “Other Programs of Note” section.
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