Yesterday the Trump Administration released a proposed budget for Fiscal 2018, proposing a $54 billion increase in military spending that would be offset by deep cuts in other programs, including drastic cuts for public lands management and environmental protections. The proposed cuts include a 12 percent reduction in funding for the Department of Interior, a 31 percent reduction in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, and a 21 percent reduction in funding for the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the National Forest system.
What would these cuts mean for public lands? It would mean reduced funds for everything from local rangers and staff, to trail work, to climate science, to planning, to managing volunteers, and coordinating public input. Reducing the budget for public lands fuels the fire for the land heist movement.
Spending on the protection and management of our country’s public lands is one of the best investments we can make. One study, for example, estimates that federal dollars spent through the Land and Water Conservation Fund have a return on investment of more than 4 to 1. Investing in our country’s public lands and waters is essential to the $646 billion outdoor recreation economy, which employs more than 6.1 million Americans. It is also relatively inexpensive for taxpayers. The average taxpayer is on the hook for $1367 for military spending, compared to just over $100 for all energy and environment spending.
The Administration’s proposed budget would be devastating for public lands, but it’s important to recognize that Congress ultimately sets the country’s budget. Protecting the economic and health benefits of our public lands and waters depends on keeping our air and water clean and addressing the effects and causes of climate change. When Congress puts together the final budget, it must take action to fund our land management agencies, to protect our public resources from pollution, and to support the science that’s essential to sound decision-making and stewardship.
While Congress has the ultimate authority over budgeting, the President’s budget is a meaningful political document. It describes the true priorities of this Administration in greater detail than before.
Whether Congress follows the President’s example depends largely on how Americans across the country respond. The outdoor recreation community has a particularly important role to play in talking to our members of Congress about our priorities for spending on public lands.
If you have a thing or two to say about protecting and stewarding our climate and our public lands and waters, please consider dropping your members of Congress a line using the tool below: