SPECIAL UPDATE: The President's FY2009 Department of Interior Budget Request

(Posted 2-06-08)


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.
More details about DOI's budget are available at AGI's appropriation page for DOI.

On February 4, 2008, Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI), unveiled the President's fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget, totaling $10.7 billion. The Department's FY09 request is a 3.5 % decline compared to last year's enacted level, but a 1.8 % increase compared to the President's FY08 request. Secretary Kempthorne stated that "like all federal agencies, we face tight budget times;" but he concluded that the requested budget will sustain core conservation and stewardship programs and address emerging environmental and resource management challenges.

Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, was less optimistic about DOI's budget request stating "this was the President's last chance to end the recurring budget nightmare that has set the Interior Department on a steady path of
neglect and deterioration."

Rahall said. "This budget axes forest programs, undercuts our wildlife refuges, puts programs to save endangered species under the knife, neglects the needs of our National Parks, and puts a stopper in important water programs."

Indeed the budget request for DOI in FY09 is almost the same as the Department's enacted budget of $10.675 billion in FY03. The Department is clearly suffering even more than other federal agencies.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
The total funding request for BLM is $977.4 million, a decline of 3% compared to FY08 enacted levels. The President's Healthy Lands Initiative got a boost of $10 million; the healthy lands program focuses on landscape-scale restoration across eight western states. The Energy and Minerals Management program also saw an increase of $22.1 million compared to last year, with a total request of $132 million. The boost is due to continued efforts to remediate legacy wells on Alaska's North Slope.

The funding request for Minerals Management Service (MMS) is $160.4 million, 0.4 % below FY08 enacted levels. The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) resource evaluation program increased by 7.6% compared to last year, totaling $32.7 million, highlighting the Administration's continued interest in energy and mineral resources in the OCS. The budget also calls for the repeal of offshore royalty incentives that were approved in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The House attempted to repeal these royalties in their energy bill in 2007, but the repeal was not accepted in the final version that was signed into law.

The National Parks Service (NPS) budget request totals $2.4 billion, a decline of 1.9% from last year. While the overall NPS budget is lower, there is an increase of $160 million in the park operations account, in preparation for the President's National Parks Centennial Challenge.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
On February 4, 2008, USGS Director Mark Myers, announced a 3.8% decline in the agency's budget request, $968.5 million for FY09 compared to the FY08 enacted level of $1 billion. The budget includes program increases of $34.9 million, a $15 million increase for fixed costs and offsetting program decreases totaling $87.8 million. USGS will play a central role in two new Administration initiatives, the Water for America Initiative and the Ocean and Coastal Frontiers Initiative. The Survey will continue its role in the President's Healthy Lands Initiative, which targets western states and will also re-structure its climate change activity, putting most of this work into a new account entitled the Global Change Program.

Myers stated that "the proposed budget will also strengthen our efforts in climate change studies, priority ecosystems research and the development of a National Land Imaging Program." Myers also emphasized the role USGS will play in addressing large-scale challenges of data integration, data preservation and data accessibility. He emphasized that the USGS provides valuable and objective information to help the nation manage and sustain its resources.

Geologic Programs
The Geologic Hazards, Resource, and Processes account is marked for a 14.6% decrease; the proposed budget is $208 million, with large losses in the Mineral Resources, Earth Surface Dynamics, Earthquake Hazards, and Global Seismographic Network programs. The Mineral Resources' budget is reduced by $24.5 million, the Earth Surface Dynamics program is eliminated, including the remaining work on the Great Lakes geologic mapping, and the Earthquake Hazards program is reduced by $5 million, retaining $49.1 million for only the highest priority earthquake research projects in FY09.
The programs slated for increases include the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program, which would provide additional support for the water census by increasing knowledge related to groundwater resources and the Coastal and Marine Geology program, which has an increase of $7 million, $4 million for the collection of data for the extended Continental Shelf of the Arctic Ocean, $2 million will be used to conduct merit-based ocean research projects, and $1 million will complete funding for efforts in seafloor mapping, and modeling of extreme weather events.

Water Resources Programs
The Water Resources programs as a whole, also suffer a decline the FY09 proposed budget totaling $203 million, a reduction of $17.5 million from the FY08 enacted budget. The 2009 budget includes a net increase of $8.2 million in support of the water census component of the Water for America Initiative. The National Streamflow Information Program is funded at $23.8 million, which includes an increase of $3.7 million to upgrade 350 stream gages with real-time telemetry and to reinstate 50 discontinued stream gages in 2009. Also in support of the water census, the Ground-Water Resources program would receive an increase of $3 million, for a total of $10.6 million in FY09. The National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program would be cut by $10.9 million, for $54.1 million in FY09 and the Hydrologic Research and Development program would be cut by $3.5 million for a proposed budget of $11.9 million in FY09. The FY09 budget will also eliminate all federal support for the State Water Resources Research Institutes, which support an institute in each state and four U.S. territories; this will result in the loss of support for over 250 research projects and more than 600 students.

Mapping Programs
Land Remote Sensing is funded at $62.6 million, an increase of $1 million compared to FY08 levels. Also included is a programmatic increase of $2.0 million to develop a National Land Imaging Program. The program will assess the future need for land imaging data and develop a plan for the acquisition of satellite data to supplement Landsat 7 imagery. The Geographic Analysis and Monitoring account is marked for a reduction of $5.7 million for a total of $73.1 million in FY09.

Biological Programs
The Biological programs would receive a slight increase compared to FY08 levels for a total proposed budget of $180 million.

Global Change
The global change activity of USGS was restructured in the FY09 budget, creating a new program area, Global Change, which retains $5.0 million of the $7.4 million allocated by Congress in FY08. The small increase would be added to a steady budget of $21.6 million for climate change research, giving the new Global Change Program a total budget of $26.6 million for FY09. An additional $5 million for climate change work would remain disbursed within the Geographic and Biologic divisions. So the USGS's total contribution to the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) would be about $31.4 million in FY09.

Special update prepared by Marcy Gallo, Government Affairs Staff

Sources: Department of the Interior and U.S. Geological Survey

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted February 6, 2008