Wildlife Management Institute

WMI Outdoor News Bulletin Massive Government Spending Bill Signed into Law
Massive Government Spending Bill Signed into Law PDF Print E-mail
President George W. Bush signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161) on December 26, 2007, providing funding for government agencies for fiscal year (FY) 2008. The massive $555 billion spending bill combined 11 of the 12 individual appropriations bills, funding every domestic government program except defense. By many accounts from professional staff on the appropriations committees, this cycle was as challenging as it has ever been, reports the Wildlife Management Institute.

In recent years, it has been increasingly difficult for members of Congress to pass annual appropriation bills separately. After the 2006 elections, Congress was unable to reach agreement on the appropriations needed to run the government in FY 2007. As a result, Congress passed a one-year continuing resolution that essentially made no changes to the previous year’s spending levels. While many members of Congress were disappointed with some of the FY 2008 overall spending levels, they acknowledged improvement from last year, when no bills were completed. House Appropriations Committee Chairman, David Obey stated, “Unlike last year…we are recognizing that, in an adult world, we have an obligation to the country to complete our budget work and move on. That is what we're trying to do with this bill.”

In addition to the difficulties with passing spending bills, members of Congress often try to insert policy changes that have only an indirect connection to a funding decision. The “riders,” as they are often called, in this year’s spending bill included a prohibition on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concerning the sale of oil shale leases in the Rocky Mountain West and a “sense of the Congress” that efforts must be taken to slow the effects of climate change. An effort in the Senate to include a policy change limiting funding for the importation of polar bear parts taken through hunting was not included in the final bill. However this year’s bill had only limited policy efforts inserted. Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Thad Cochran noted, “This omnibus bill is, in my view, superior to many of its predecessors in one sense—–it contains virtually none of the legislative matter that is so often added to omnibus bills.”

Spending overview

The enacted budget for the Department of Interior (DOI) provides roughly the same funding levels as the previous year. Overall, the DOI received $10.1 billion in the final bill, however all DOI and Environment (including USDA Forest Service [FS]) budgets took an immediate across-the-board cut of 1.5 percent, making the final allocation $9.9 billion. At these levels, little is being to done to meet the agencies’ rising costs of doing business.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) received an overall appropriation of $1.36 billion, roughly $30 million above the FY 2007 spending level. The amended bill provides $434.1 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System, $296.6 million for operations and $137.5 million for maintenance, which is nearly $40 million above FY 2007. Migratory bird management is provided $40.4 million, which is less than $90,000 above the FY 2007 spending level. The North American Wetlands Conservation Fund received a slight increase for FY 2008 to $42 million. For land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), FWS will have $34.6 million in 2008, and habitat conservation funding includes an additional $50 million for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife, and $5 million for the National Wetlands Inventory. The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund was allocated $73.8 million and state wildlife grants came in at $73.8 million, but the Landowner Incentive Program and the Private Stewardship Grants Program were eliminated in the budget.

At $1 billion, agency funding for the U.S Geological Survey in 2008 is about $12 million higher than in 2007. Overall funding for biological research and monitoring is $141.3 million—an increase of $3 million over the FY 2007 level. Specific project or program funding levels include $1 million for the President’s Healthy Lands Initiative, funding for habitat restoration in areas of the Rocky Mountain West that have been impacted by oil and gas development; $43 million for wildlife, terrestrial and endangered species research efforts; and $16.2 million for the cooperative research units.

The BLM received an overall budget of $1 billion, not including the $808 million provided for wildland fire management. Most of the Healthy Lands Initiative was funded at $4.9 million—much less than the $15 million requested by the Administration. Perhaps most notably, the bill requires the BLM to charge a new $4,000 fee for each new application for a permit to drill on BLM lands. The collected fees are expected to generate roughly $25.5 million and offset the current appropriation. The agency’s budget for wildlife and fisheries management ended up with $44.3 million, and land acquisition through LWCF was funded at just under $9 million.

While housed within USDA, FS is funded the DOI and other environmental agencies appropriations bill. Overall, the FS budget for 2008 will be $2.5 billion, not including $1.9 billion made available for wildland fire management. This keeps the agency at approximately the same level as 2007 and, with fire fighting costs consuming more than 43 percent of the budget. Within this budget, forest and rangeland research was given $290.5 million and the programs under state and private forestry received $262.7 million. Much of the FS budget is focused on the National Forest System ($1.47 billion), which includes $132.4 million for wildlife and fish habitat management, $48.8 million for land-management planning, $166.6 million for inventory and monitoring, $262.6 million for recreation, heritage and wilderness, and $48.2 million for grazing management. The agency’s federal land-acquisition budget is $41.8 million from LWCF.

While the majority of funding for agricultural conservation programs is mandatory spending and does not require annual appropriations, the USDA budget still has several wildlife-related provisions. Conservation programs under the Natural Resource Conservation Service were allocated $936.8 million—an $85 million increase over FY 2007. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) received $17.7 million for chronic wasting disease efforts. Of this amount, $1.2 million is for surveillance in Wisconsin, $182,000 is for surveillance in Utah and $38,000 is for surveillance in Colorado. The agency’s Wildlife Services’ (WS) operations budget received $75 million, including $17.8 million for method development at the National Wildlife Research Center that focuses on improving techniques to manage animal damage problems and to improve the safety of WS employees. Of the total funding for WS, the Berryman Institute, the Utah District Internet Mapping Site will receive $1.1 million, and the Predatory Research Station in Utah will receive $1 million. (jas)