Salazar: House Republican budget a 'death knell' for conservation programs

The Republican budget is a “death knell” for conservation programs, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

AP reports Salazar “at times struck a political tone” while touring the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge near Boynton Beach, Fla.

House Republicans have been keen to brandish their cost-cutting credentials, and Salazar feels they have made conservation programs that environmentalists favor a target.

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"A great fear I have is that there will be a U-turn," Salazar told AP.

President Obama requested $11.5 billion for Interior in the fiscal 2013 budget, which includes $516.8 million in cuts from 2012.

The House plan would give Interior $10.3 billion.

Environmentalists last month accused House Republicans of stripping from the highway reauthorization bill a provision that would have given the Land and Water Conservation Fund $1.4 billion over two years. The bill would have reauthorized the program until 2022.

House Democrats wrote last month to Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerFirst senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid Bass receives endorsement from EMILY's List Bass gets mayoral endorsement from former California senator MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) to preserve the fund in the highway bill reauthorization. The letter signatories said the fund “is and always has been a bipartisan program.”

House Republicans have pushed against other Interior Department policy goals in recent weeks.

House Republicans pushed a bill Wednesday to expand offshore oil-and-gas lease sales to Pacific and Atlantic coastal areas through the Natural Resources Committee.

That would go beyond Obama’s plan, which closes such areas partly because of environmental concerns and fallout from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Salazar is expected to sign that plan.

Earlier this month Salazar blamed Congress for job losses resulting from holding up an extension of the wind production tax credit. The uncertainty about the credit’s future has caused layoffs in the wind energy industry, he said.