Washington, DC (May 23, 2007) – House appropriators approved the fiscal 2008 budget for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies in a voice vote today. The measure provides $2.6 billion for the USDA Forest Service, including a $31.1 million budget item for the Urban and Community Forestry Program. For U&CF, that amounts to a $1 million increase from last year’s enacted budget and $13 million more than the budget proposed by the President in the 2008 Administration budget released in February.
Action by the full Appropriations Committee and then the House is expected shortly after the Memorial Day recess. Senate appropriators haven’t yet released their draft of a 2008 spending plan.
Throughout the budget, the House rejected cuts to environmental protection and land management programs proposed by the President earlier this year. The House fiscal 2008 spending bill would increase discretionary funding by 4.5 percent over fiscal 2007. By contrast, the Bush administration’s fiscal 2008 budget proposal would cut the overall budget by $753 million, to $25.7 billion.
Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said the increases are fully justified, given the budget cuts in recent years. The EPA and the Interior Department have had to cut back programs and staff because of budget shortfalls since 2001. Dicks acknowledged that the bill would not fully offset those long-term cuts, but he said it would allow land-management agencies to staff up and address maintenance backlogs.
“You can only reduce so far, and then you can’t do the job,” Dicks said. “I’m proud of every nickel that’s in there.”
Democrats followed up on their promise to keep the bill free of member earmarks. Dicks also was able to stave off contentious policy riders, although some may surface as amendments in the full committee markup or on the House floor.
The House bill also would provide a total of $44 million for climate-change research at the U.S. Geological Survey, the EPA and the Forest Service as well as $5 million to establish a new federal commission to look at ways to mitigate and adapt to global warming. Federal agencies would receive another $45 million to help implement the commission’s recommendations.
Next Steps for Advocates:
The Senate has not yet approved its budget for Interior and Related Agencies. Now is a good time to take action, targeting each of your Senators. All Senate members are worth contacting. Those on Appropriations, particularly those serving on the Subcommittee for Interior and Related Agencies, are especially influential to the budget for Forest Service programs and research.
To see if your Senator is on a key committee, visit:
Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior & Related Agencies
Full Appropriations Committee
To use ACT’s letter template for expressing your support, download:
Template Letter for Individuals
Template Letter for Organizations