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SF Eel River

Tackling Chronic Underfunding of Our Public Lands

Over the last three years, CalWild has been working harder than ever before to increase the amount of money Congress provides annually to the US Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to implement key programs. Together, these agencies manage 35 million acres of California, or about 35 percent of the entire state. Opponents of conservation in Congress seek to starve these agencies of funding and this has had catastrophic impacts on our public lands and waters and the people who love them. CalWild and our allies are fighting back.

Thanks to funding cuts from Congress, facilities such as trails, campgrounds, roads, and bathrooms have deteriorated, been closed, or been abandoned entirely. The USFS barely has enough staff to plan and implement any kind of project, even the most rudimentary. The only program that Congress seems willing to fund generously is fire suppression. As a result, the majority of USFS staff work in fire management instead of recreation, wildlife, botany, and many other programs that are chronically understaffed. The lack of law enforcement personnel on our public lands have helped lead to a persistent and very serious problem of trespass marijuana growing with terrible impacts to water, wildlife, soil, and public safety. This extreme lack of capacity on the part of agencies comes at a time when there has been an explosion of use on our USFS and BLM lands.

President Biden’s proposed budget for the BLM and USFS for Fiscal Year 2022 goes a long way towards restoring the agencies by greatly increasing proposed spending on conservation, recreation, and other key programs. For example, our allies at the Conservation Lands Foundation have been pushing hard this year for $65 million to support the BLM’s National Conservation Lands (such lands include wilderness, national monuments, wild and scenic rivers, and other special places managed by the BLM). To our delight, President Biden’s proposed Interior budget includes $67.674 million for the National Conservation Lands. Such increases are recommended in all key conservation, recreation, and stewardship programs across the board for the two agencies.

The proposed BLM budget is $1.6 billion, an increase of $311.9 million over the amount of money appropriated by Congress in 2021. The proposed USFS budget is for $8.4 billion. This is an increase of $1 billion over the amount appropriated by Congress in 2021. Unfortunately, President Biden’s proposed budget is just a recommendation to Congress. Only Congress has the authority to approve budgets.

Congress is working on the budget now though few expect them to actually pass it by the September 30th deadline. Given past experience, it is likely that the Fiscal Year 2022 budget will not be sent to President Biden until late 2021 or perhaps even 2022. Meanwhile, conservationists will be working hard to convince members of both houses to support key BLM and USFS programs. California Senator Dianne Feinstein sits on a key budget committee and has already announced her support for more funding for the BLM and USFS. Please take action today and urge Congress to properly fund our public lands.