On Monday, we released the results of an annual economic report that shows that the Department of the Interior’s activities contributed an estimated $371 billion to the national economy and supported an estimated 2.3 million jobs in Fiscal Year 2012.
From tourism at our national parks, wildlife refuges and public lands, to revenues from energy production both on- and offshore, to assisting Native American communities as they build a better future – the Department has a huge positive economic impact on communities across our country.
And yet, the bill being considered by the House Interior Appropriations Committee today requires cuts that would force the Department to reduce activities that support our nation’s economy and create jobs.
The House Republican bill would cut the Department’s funding by 12% from the President’s proposed budget.
For example, the bill reduces funding for offshore energy development by 11%, relative to the President’s request. This includes reductions for safety and environmental enforcement programs which will slow the pace at which we can implement important safety, environmental, and other program reforms. New lease sales could also be delayed due to inadequate resources for upfront research and planning processes. Collectively, these impacts will likely constrain both future energy development and associated revenues to the government.
The House bill would also undercut our trust responsibilities to tribal nations. Tribal communities that have already been hit hard by sequestration would see a significant reduction in funding for critical programs, including law enforcement, natural resource management, and aid to tribal governments. The bill would undermine our trust and treaty obligations by hindering our ability to fulfill Indian land and water settlements.
The House bill also makes significant reductions to Interior’s science programs, which would impact essential research on water quality and resource assessments. First responders who rely on timely information from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) about hazards would see reductions in volcano and earthquake programs, as well as assessments of wildland fire risk and mitigation opportunities. And states that rely on data from USGS stream gages would see reductions in this program that helps protect communities from flooding.
The House bill would also jeopardize America’s investments in its parks, wildlife refuges and protections for places that people love, and that drive tourism and recreation across the country.
The House bill would zero out the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for the first time since this innovative fund was Authorized in 1964 – the fund was specifically established to use a portion of the revenues from offshore drilling to support funding for parks and open spaces that benefit Americans nationwide. This cut would eliminate support that states and communities leverage for a wide range of purposes such as providing access to activities like hunting and fishing, protecting Civil War and other battlefields, supporting ball fields and other places for kids to play, providing easements that keep working ranch lands working, and protecting important habitat for wildlife and endangered species.
As Monday’s economic report reveals, we can measure the cost of these proposed cuts in very real terms. We are talking about lost jobs and lost opportunities in America’s communities.
We need to continue efforts to ensure the nation’s long-term fiscal sustainability, but there is a way to find meaningful savings in the budget while still supporting our basic missions and promoting economic growth.
Instead of making drastic cuts to programs that create jobs, support the middle class and foster economic development, we should be working together on strategic ways to reduce the deficit while making the investments we need to keep America’s conservation legacy strong, to power our future, to perform essential research, and to strengthen tribal communities.