Obama looks to increase budget for public lands

President Obama is proposing to fully fund a key federal conservation program in 2017 and pump funding into the National Park Service to recognize its centennial this year.

Obama’s budget provides $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in 2017, making the program permanent and shifting some of its funding to mandatory accounts, the White House said on Tuesday.

It also boosts funding to support the National Parks Service, which turns 100 years old in 2016, including an $860 million program to upgrade facilities across the system. A separate $235 million would go toward programs to support further NPS upgrades. 

The budget bumps funding for several climate-related programs, including wildfire prevention, water conservation and climate change resilience for communities along the oceans.

Renewable energy development gets about $97 million in the budget, and a Bureau of Land Management onshore oil and gas program would see a 17 percent funding increase to “oversee safe, environmentally-sound resource development and ensure a fair return to taxpayers.”

In total, Interior is looking for a $200 million increase in discretionary funding from 2016 levels.

“This is a smart budget that builds on our previous successes and strengthens partnerships that will ensure we are balancing the needs of today with opportunities for future generations,” Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellAdministration should finalize proposed changes to strengthen the Regional Haze Rule Interior aiming to bolster land work with tribes U.S. veterans call on Obama Administration to finalize a strong natural gas waste rule now MORE told reporters on Tuesday.

“At its very core it makes strategic investments in sound science to help tackle some of our largest challenges.” 

Congressional Republicans have, in the past, welcomed funding increases for Department of Interior programming. In the spending deal finalized in December, Congress increased funding within the Interior and environment budget by $1.7 billion over 2015 levels, though that figure was still more than $1.1 billion less than Obama requested. 

Even so, some items Obama requested are likely to be left out of a final spending plan. The LWCF, for example, has broad bipartisan support, but Obama’s plan would double its funding levels from 2016, a big ask of lawmakers who briefly allowed the program to expire last year.

“This is a missed opportunity for strong stewardship of the land and taxpayer dollars,” said Rep. Rob BishopRob BishopEPA employees won't face charges over Colorado mine spill One way to reduce regulations? Give states the power to reject them. Endangered species rule changed, angering environmental group MORE (R-Utah), the House Natural Resources Committee chairman who last year looked to overhaul the LWCF.

“I expected more from Secretary Jewell’s department. She deserves better material to give Congress than what has been provided to her by the department. Her staff let her down.”