FY 2010 Department of the Interior Appropriations (6/26/09)

Untitled Document


Geoscience-related agencies within the Department of Interior include the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and U.S. Forest Service. For more background information on the Department of Interior and the agencies within, visit the AGI Federal Agencies policy page.

For analysis of hearings held by Congress on Department of the Interior appropriations, click here.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Department of Interior Appropriations Process


FY09 Enacted

House Action

Senate Action

U.S. Geological Survey (total)


Geologic Programs


-- Earthquake Hazards


-- Volcano Hazards


-- Landslide Hazards


-- Global Seismographic Network


-- Geomagnetism


-- National Cooperative Geologic Mapping


-- Coastal and Marine Geology


-- Mineral Resource Assessments


-- Energy Resource Assessments


-- Data Preservation


Water Resources Programs


Biological Resources Programs

Geographic Programs*

Enterprise Information*

Global Climate Change



Science Support


Bureau of Land Management (total)


Energy and Minerals Management


Minerals Management Service (total)


National Park Service (total for park system)


NPS Resource Stewardship


Smithsonian Institution (total)


U.S. Forest Service (total)


Minerals and Geology Management


* The totals reflect the transfer of the National Geospatial Program ($71 million) from Enterprise Information to Geography

Geoscience Value of Agencies within the Department of the Interior Appropriations bill

Created by an act of Congress in 1879, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has evolved over the years, matching its talent and knowledge to the progress of science and technology. According to their website, the USGS serves the Nation as an independent fact-finding agency that collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems. The value of the USGS to the Nation rests on its ability to carry out studies on a national scale and to sustain long-term monitoring and assessment of natural resources. Because it has no regulatory or management mandate, the USGS provides impartial science that serves the needs of our changing world. The diversity of scientific expertise enables the USGS to carry out large-scale, multi-disciplinary investigations that build the base of knowledge about the Earth. In turn, decision makers at all levels of government--and citizens in all walks of life--have the information tools they need to address pressing societal issues.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing 262 million acres of land--about one-eighth of the land in the United States--and about 300 million additional acres of subsurface mineral resources. The Bureau is also responsible for wildfire management and suppression on 388 million acres. Practices such as revegetation, protective fencing, and water development are designed to conserve, enhance, and develop public land, soil, and watershed resources. Keeping public lands protected from fire on all Department of the Interior managed lands in Alaska, and suppressing wildfires on the public lands in Alaska and the western States is a high priority for BLM since they are dominated by extensive grasslands, forests, high mountains, arctic tundra, and deserts. The BLM manages a wide variety of resources and uses, including energy and minerals; timber; forage; wild horse and burro populations; fish and wildlife habitat; wilderness areas; archaeological, paleontological, and historical sites; and other natural heritage values. The Bureau also has an active program of soil and watershed management on 175 million acres in the lower 48 States and 86 million acres in Alaska.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) is the federal agency that manages the nation's natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf (OCS). The agency collects, accounts for and disburses more than $5 billion per year in revenues from federal offshore mineral leases and from onshore mineral leases on federal and Indian lands. For FY 2005, the agency expects to collect and distribute about $9.5 billion from active Federal and Indian leases. There are two major programs within MMS, Offshore Minerals Management and Minerals Revenue Management.

Established in 1916, the National Park Service (NPS) has stewardship responsibilities for the protection and preservation of the national park system. The system, consisting of 388 separate and distinct units, is recognized globally as a leader in park management and resource preservation. The national park system represents much of the finest the Nation has to offer in terms of scenery, historical and archeological relics, and cultural heritage. Through its varied sites, the National Park Service attempts to explain America's history, interpret its culture, preserve examples of its natural ecosystems, and provide recreational and educational opportunities for U.S. citizens and visitors from all over the world, according to the NPS website.

The Smithsonian Institution is unique in the Federal establishment. Established by the Congress in 1846 to carry out the trust included in James Smithson's will, it has been engaged for over 150 years in the "increase and diffusion of knowledge among men" in accordance with the donor's instructions. With the expenditure of both private and Federal funds over the years, it has grown into one of the world's great scientific, cultural, and intellectual organizations. It operates magnificent museums, outstanding art galleries, and important research centers. Its collections are among the best in the world, attracting approximately 25,000,000 visitors in 2002 to its museums, galleries, and zoological park, according to the Smithsonian webiste. As custodian of the National Collections, the Smithsonian is responsible for more than 140 million art objects, natural history specimens, and artifacts. These collections are displayed for the enjoyment and education of visitors and are available for research by the staff of the Institution and by hundreds of visiting students, scientists, and historians each year. Other significant study efforts draw their data and results directly from terrestrial, marine, and astrophysical observations at various Smithsonian installations.

Congress established the Forest Service within the Department of Agriculture in 1905 to provide quality water and timber for the Nation’s benefit. Their website indicates that over the years, the public expanded the list of what they want from national forests and grasslands. Congress responded by directing the Forest Service to manage national forests for additional multiple uses and benefits and for the sustained yield of renewable resources such as water, forage, wildlife, wood, and recreation. Multiple use means managing resources under the best combination of uses to benefit the American people while ensuring the productivity of the land and protecting the quality of the environment. National forests encompass 191 million acres (77.3 million hectares) of land, which is an area equivalent to the size of Texas. The Forest Service is also the largest forestry research organization in the world, and provides technical and financial assistance to state and private forestry agencies. Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, summed up the purpose of the Forest Service—"to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run."

President's Request for FY 2010

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

Suzette Kimball, Acting Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) briefed a small audience of stakeholders and reporters about the details of President Obama's budget request on May 7, 2009. The USGS would receive almost $1.1 billion for fiscal year 2010 (FY10). This total represents an increase of about $53 million over the enacted level of $1.04 billion for FY09.  An additional $140 million given to the USGS as a one time economic stimulus from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) is not included in these budget number comparisons. Please see AGI's brief summary of USGS stimulus spending for details on the ARRA funds.

At the briefing, Kimball noted that there were no requested reductions to core programs and only a few congressionally-mandated projects would be reduced or eliminated in the President's proposal. Secretary Salazar has called the USGS the "best hidden jewel" within the federal government and the USGS worked closely with DOI to formulate a robust budget for critical activities. Department support was evident in the presence of  Deanna Archuleta the newly appointed deputy secretary for water and science at the USGS budget briefing in her first month on the job.

Kimball highlighted the role of the USGS in DOI's New Energy Frontier Initiative and the Twenty First Century Youth Conservation Corps programs, among other priorities she discussed.

For New Energy Frontiers, USGS would receive an additional $3 million to work with others at Interior to improve understanding and knowledge of the nation's alternative energy resources.  The distribution of these funds as well as other spending within the USGS are described below for each department.

The Youth Conservation Corps, a major new initiative of the President and priority of Secretary Salazar, would reinvigorate Interior Department's efforts to "engage, educate and develop new generations of Americans with an ethic for conservation and resource stewardship".  The initiative stems from a growing interest in getting children outdoors and engaging youth in active experiences with nature, not only for improved health, but for a better understanding of the natural world. 

About $30 million in new funding would be provided for educating young hunters and anglers and $40 million (an increase of $20 million) would be provided for youth and careers in nature across DOI.  The USGS, which received $2.3 million for youth and careers in nature in FY09, would receive $4.3 million in FY10. With this $2 million increase, the USGS would expand education, training and workshop opportunities for students in high school and college. The funding would allow the USGS to increase the number of internships and fellowships from 120 to 175.

Kimball specifically noted that this initiative would help to ensure the geosciences workforce of the future and would allow students to "explore careers in the natural sciences". Overall the initiative fits well with the needs and priorities of the geosciences community. The geosciences are a natural fit for youth education about nature, promoting an active lifestyle and careers in the natural sciences.  The community should strengthen partnerships with the USGS, the Interior Department and the rest of the federal government on this and other initiatives.

Below are some details about the funding for major departments within USGS. The tables on AGI's Government Affairs appropriations web pages provide an easy to read snapshot of total budget numbers, while the details below provide some explanation of these totals.

For Geology, USGS would receive $247 million or an increase of $4.8 million over FY09. The increases would help to expand research for mapping the limits of the extended continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, expand wind and solar energy research in Coastal and Marine Geology, expand biofuels research in Mineral Resources and expand geothermal research in Energy Resources. Alternative energy resources are a top priority of the Obama Administration and an area where the USGS has useful expertise. The Arctic Ocean mapping is becoming a greater priority for the U.S. and other nations as the Arctic warms and opportunities for exploration, navigation and research change. Again the USGS is on the frontline for providing the information the nation needs to deal with a changing world and changing international priorities.

Also within Geology, Geologic Hazards would receive a small increase of about $678,000, $28 million would be provided for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program and $1 million would be provided for the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation program. The budget for data preservation is far below the authorized amount of $30 million per year and future funding is uncertain as the law (Energy Policy Act of 2005; Public Law 109-58) only authorizes funding until FY10.

For Geography, USGS would receive $144 million, representing a modest increase of almost $2 million. A big change that affects budget tracking, but not actual funding levels, is the transfer of the National Geospatial Program from Enterprise Information to Geography. The geospatial program would be funded at $70.748 million for FY10 for an increase of almost $1 million over FY09. The Land Remote Sensing budget would increase slightly to $62.1 million and would allow for continued operations and maintenance of Landsats 5 and 7 plus continued development with NASA of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM). Chris Scolese, Acting Administrator of NASA mentioned LDCM as a priority in his remarks at the OSTP budget briefing on May 7.

For Water Resources, USGS would receive $228 million, an increase of $6.5 million compared to FY09. About $5 million of the increase would be for the National Streamflow Information program to re-establish discontinued stream gages that would be the most critical for climate change assessments. Kimball noted that more than 850 entities across the nation are involved with the USGS streamflow program, highlighting the importance of this ubiquitous, historic and well-utilized monitoring system. There is also an increase of $200,000 for biofuels research within the Hydrologic Networks and Analysis program.  The National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) and the Water Resources Institutes, which have been proposed for cuts in the past, would be fully funded.

For Global Change, USGS would receive $58.2 million, an increase of $17.5 million compared to FY09 and the largest percentage increase of any department within the USGS. The increases would be distributed as follows: an additional $5 million for the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, an additional $7 million for geologic and biologic carbon sequestration and an additional $5 million for urgent climate change research and monitoring.

Near the end of the briefing, Kimball noted that fixed costs would be fully funded in the President's proposal. This would allow the USGS to maintain their workforce and infrastructure without having to pull critical resources from core programs.

Further details about the USGS and Department of the Interior budget proposals are now available online: http://www.usgs.gov/budget/2010/2010index.asp

House Action

The House approved of the fiscal year 2010 appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior, Environment and related agencies (H.R. 2996) on June 26, 2009. The bill would provide $1.106 billion for the U.S. Geological Survey, an increase of about $62 million compared to fiscal year (FY) 2009 and $7.9 million more than the President’s request. About $65.6 million would be available for cooperation with states on water resources, $40 million would be available for satellite operations, presumably for Landsat, and $7.3 million would be available for deferred maintenance and capital improvements.

The $7.9 million increase above the President's request would include the following items: in geography ($1.65 million above the request for the USGS to run the Civil Applications Committee), in geology ($1 million above the request for LIDAR and $0.25 million for the Global Seismographic Network), in water resources ($0.3 million for the South Arkansas Sparta aquifer recovery study; $0.20 million for Hood Canal dissolved oxygen study, WA; $0.28 million for McHenry County groundwater protection program, IL; $1 million for US-Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act study), and in biology ($2 million within biological information management and delivery for support to the coordinators of the national network of State conservation data agencies; $0.22 million for the Silvio O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Lab, MA; and $1 million to continue scientific support to the South San Francisco salt ponds restoration effort, CA).  

The House subcommittee report calls for $145.6 million for Geographic Research, Investigations and Remote Sensing (+$3.5 million compared to FY09 and +$1.6 million compared to the request).The additional $1.6 million would be for the Civil Applications Committee, which would receive total funding of $2 million. The committee fully supports the transfer of the National Geospatial Program from Enterprise Information to Geographic Research and full funding of $40.2 million for Landsat Data Continuity Mission and the ongoing Landsat 5/7 program.

For Geology, the committee recommends $248.2 million (+$6 million compared to FY09 and +$1.2 million compared to the request). About $1 million of the additional funding would be for earthquake hazards work using LIDAR and other studies and $250,000 for the Global Seismographic Network. The committee also supports full funding of $4 million for extended continental shelf mapping to support U.S. claims in the Arctic Ocean.

For Water Resources, the committee recommends $229.7 million (+$8.3 million compared to FY09 and +$1.78 million compared to the request) and for Biology, the committee recommends $202.5 million (+$17 million compared to FY09 and +$3.2 million compared to the request).

The Smithsonian Institution would receive $774 million, an increase of $43 million over FY 2009. The Environmental Protection Agency would receive $10.6 billion, an increase of $2.9 billion over FY 2009 and about $84 million more than the President’s request. The total budget would be divided as follows: $850 million for science and technology (+$60 million over FY 2009), $3 billion for environmental programs and management (+$608 million over FY 2009), $1.3 billion for the Superfund program (+$15 million over FY 2009), $113 million for the Leaking Underground Storage Tank program, and $5.2 billion for environmental programs and infrastructure assistance to states and tribal entities.

In the House report (111-180), the committee provides further details and explanations of funding priorities and initiatives. A section on the protection of “great water bodies” calls for $660 million to protect specific water bodies. In particular, the House supports $475 million for the Great Lakes, $28 million for the National Estuaries Grant Program and $148 million to restore water bodies “from Long Island Sound to Puget Sound, from Lake Champlain to Lake Pontchartrain.” An even larger sum would be devoted to clean and safe drinking water infrastructure with an appropriation of $3.9 billion (an increase of $2.2 billion above FY 2009 levels).

Another section on “Global Climate Change Science and Adaptation” notes the committee’s support for climate change science at the U.S. Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Smithsonian Institution and the Forest Service research branch. Committee support for applied science and adaptation is provided for the EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which shows the Committee’s attempt to separate applied from basic research on climate change within Interior and related agencies. The committee concludes this section by strongly encouraging the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior to move forward on climate change science and adaptation in a coordinated and strategic fashion without creating new offices or organizational structures.

The House report also explains the large increase for wildland fire management ($3.66 billion, a 40 percent increase over FY 2009) in order to suppress mega-fires and save costs from damages associated with a few large fires. Lastly, House Committee expressed concern about coordination of land acquisition for conservation and called upon the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior to coordinate better and define national strategies for future land conservation. The comments build upon concerns about coordination of efforts at the U.S. Forest Service, which is part of the Department of Agriculture, and the land management agencies within the Department of the Interior.

The House of Representatives considers funding for the Department of the Interior within the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Representative Dicks (D-WA), other members include Representatives Moran (D-VA), Hinchey (D-NY), Olver (D-MA) Mollohan (D-WV), Chandler (D-KY), Pastor (D-AZ), Price (D-NC), Obey (D-WI), Simpson (R-ID), Calvert (R-CA), LaTourette (R-OH), Cole (R-OK), and Lewis (R-CA).

Senate Action

The Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies completed their work on the House appropriations bill (H.R. 2996) and Senate report (111-38) on June 25, 2009. The Senate has yet to vote on the bill and will probably wait until the fall to consider the legislation.

The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $1,104 million for the U.S. Geological Survey, about $6 million more than the President’s request and $2 million less than the House mark. The increases compared to the President’s request would be primarily divided up between the Geologic, Water and Biological Resources programs. Within Geologic Hazards, Processes and Research, an additional $1 million would be for extended continental shelf studies and an additional $1.5 million would be for wind, solar, geothermal and biofuels research. Within Water Resources, increases would be devoted to regional water projects plus the National Streamgage Network and the environmental effects of biofuels. Within Biological Resources, increases would be for general genetics and genomic research, tropical ecosystems and watershed health research and the National Biological Information Infrastructure.

The committee recommends $634 million for Smithsonian salaries and expenses and $125 million for facilities. This would be an increase of nearly $41 million for operations and $2 million for facilities compared to FY09. About $26 million would be set aside for fixed costs and $16.3 million would be devoted to revitalization of the National Museum of Natural History, where many geoscience exhibits and geoscience researchers reside.

The bill summary and committee reports are available from Thomas at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:H.R.2996:

The Senate considers funding for the Department of Interior in the Interior and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Feinstein (D-CA), other members include Senators Byrd (D-WV), Leahy (D-VT), Dorgan (D-ND), Mikulski (D-MD), Kohl (D-WI), Johnson (D-SD, Reed (D-RI), Nelson (D-NE), Cochran (R-MS), Bennett (R-UT), Gregg (R-NH), and Alexander (R-TN).

Conference Action

Congress passed and the President signed the Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies on the October 30, 2009 deadline. The bill (H.R. 2996) became Public Law 111-088 and more details about the funding requests are also available in the conference committee report (111-316). The October deadline was based on a continuing resolution passed at the end of fiscal year 2009. Included in the Interior appropriations bill is a second continuing resolution for four other appropriation bills that have not been completed.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) received a total budget of $1,111.74 million for fiscal year 2010. The final budget is slightly above the President’s request and the House and Senate levels. About $5 million in congressionally-mandated projects were included in the final appropriations, which account for most of the increase. These projects are primarily local to regional natural resource management assessments and research investigations that benefit from USGS expertise. By law, the legislation includes a complete list of these projects and interested readers may find a table of projects and costs in the measure.

The Smithsonian Institution received $636.2 million for fiscal year 2010, about $2 million more than requested by the President and Congress. The additional funds are designated for the care of “priceless historical collections” within the various museums.

The Environmental Protection Agency received $846 million for science and technology, $2.994 billion for environmental programs and management, $1.3 billion for superfund clean-up, $113 million for underground storage tank clean-up, $18 million for oil spill research and $4.97 billion for state and tribal assistance grants for environmental programs. In most cases, these funding levels reflect compromises between small differences between House and Senate proposed levels, with Congress favoring one House level or splitting the difference between two different levels. The details of funding for other EPA programs is available in the legislation and associated reports.

Congress also requested EPA to consider more research on hydraulic fracturing, black carbon, Great Lakes marine vessel emission controls and the health effects of fuel efficiency and emissions reduction efforts related to climate change.

Appropriations Hearings

  • June 23, 2009: Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Markup of the “FY 2010 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill”
  • June 3, 2009: Senate Appropriations Committee Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee Hearing on “FY 2010 Department of the Interior Budget Request”

Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Markup of the “FY 2010 Interior, Environment and Related
Agencies Appropriations Bill
June 23, 2009

Committee Members Present
Dianne Feinstein, Chairwoman (D-CA)
Lamar Alexander, Ranking Member (R-TN)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)*
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT)
Robert F. Bennett (R-UT)

*Ranking Member of full committee

On June 23, 2009, the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies of the Senate Appropriations Committee held a markup on the “FY2010 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.” The 2010 Interior bill appropriations bill totals $32.1 billion, which is $4.5 billion higher than the fiscal year (FY) 2009 enacted budget and less than the President’s FY2010 request by $225 million. Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also noted during the markup that the House appropriations bill is $500 million higher than the Senate appropriations bill. Still, she noted the $3.6 billion the Senate subcommittee is allocating for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure is “the largest public infrastructure bill” the subcommittee has ever passed. The allocation is part of the $10.9 billion the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is receiving in the bill, which is $2.5 billion over the 2009 non-emergency level.

The Interior, Environment, and Related agencies subcommittee appropriates funds to the Department of the Interior, which includes the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service, and the EPA. The bill also includes $3.56 billion for firefighting and fire risk reduction programs by the U.S. Forest Service and the DOI. This represents an increase of $576 million from the 2009 non-emergency level. Feinstein asserted this increase is necessary in order to fund firefighting efforts ahead of time at the level that will likely be needed and to “end the cycle of agencies borrowing money” with the hope of Congress funding them after the fact. The funds will go toward wildland fire suppression, hazardous fuels reduction, and firefighter salaries and equipment. Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he was pleased to see this increase in the budget and “we are finally being honest about firefighting” and the level of funding it requires.

The bill provides a total of $6 billion for basic operations at National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and on Bureau of Land Management lands. This funding level represents an increase of $350 million above the 2009 amount. In particular, $2.71 billion will be allocated to National Parks, representing an increase of $130 million to pay for basic operations. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would receive $1.044 billion**, an increase of $60.5 million from 2009. Increases will support expanded global climate change research, enhancing the National Streamgage Network, expanded renewable energy research, and Arctic ecosystems research. There will be an increase of $127 million to $419 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund activities, of which Alexander expressed support. 

Alexander expressed his belief that this appropriations bill is “a good bipartisan product” and all Senators present showed their appreciation for the work that went into the bill. Feinstein asked the subcommittee members to send their amendments to the Ranking Member and herself before June 25 when the full committee will vote on the bill. Those amendments that can be mutually agreed upon by the Chairwoman and Ranking Member will be included in a manager’s package submitted to the full committee before the vote, though other amendments can be offered to the full committee as well. The subcommittee voted unanimously to adopt the draft bill and report to the full Senate Appropriations committee.

A PDF summary of the mark can be found on the subcommittee website.

**The Senate Appropriations Committee approved an FY 2010 spending bill that would increase funding for the U.S. Geological Survey by $60.5 million or 5.8 percent above the FY 2009 level. However, the FY 2010 funding level of $1.044 billion is the FY 2009 enacted level. Assuming that the Senate bill would increase the USGS budget by $60.5 million, then the FY 2010 appropriation for the USGS would be $1.105 billion, which is $1.5 million below the House mark and $6.5 million above the president's budget request.


Senate Appropriations Committee Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee Hearing on “FY 2010 Department of the Interior Budget Request”
June 3, 2009

Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior

Committee Members Present
Dianne Feinstein, Chairwoman (D-CA)
Lamar Alexander, Ranking Member (R-TN)
Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Jon Tester (D-MT)

On June 3, 2009, the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee conducted a hearing on the President’s budget request for the Department of the Interior (DOI) for the fiscal year (FY) 2010. Testimony was given by the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who has been busy in his first 134 days as Secretary establishing his workforce and implementingthe American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). This Act gave $140 million to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and $320 million to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), allocations that are not considered part of the FY 2010 budget.

The $10.98 billion budget requested for the DOI is a 9% increase over the FY 2009 budget and the greatest increase in the past few years. Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was quick to call this “a real push in the right direction in several important areas.”  She praised the full funding for the Fire Suppression Account, the allocation for fixed costs, and the increases in funding for Land and Water Conservation Fund, the National Park Service, and a climate change initiative. She concluded by saying that the budget will be favorably received. The budget proposal also includes an overall increase of $53 million for the USGS, of which $3 million would go to the research of solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal renewable energy sources, and an overall increase for the BLM of $110 million. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) budget would increase by $139 million, with $24 million going to develop a renewable energy program for the study of technological applications and environmental impacts of renewable energy on the outer continental shelf and for the issuing and monitoring of leases for land on the outer continental shelf.  More information on the proposed budget increases can be found here.

During his opening testimony, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reviewed the 500 million acres managed by the DOI, from the tundra in Alaska to the Everglades in Florida, and even the outer continental shelves. He emphasized the vast and comprehensive responsibilities of the DOI, stating, “The Department of the Interior is truly the Department of America.” He then highlighted five projects that the DOI would undertake with the proposed budget in the next year. The first initiative is the creation of a New Energy Frontier by developing solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources. The second goal is to maintain the treasured landscapes of America, ensuring that funding goes to the preservation of such places as the California Bay Delta, the Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades. Salazar explained the third goal, the 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps, as a project where young people would learn about and be engaged with the preservation of wildlife and the environment. The fourth project is to empower this nation’s native people by creating new education opportunities and funding resources for a greater law enforcement presence on reservations. Lastly, Salazar mentioned his resolve to address the water allocation problems facing this nation, specifically in the sensitive river systems of the Bay Delta and the southeast.

The majority of the hearing was spent discussing the implementation of renewable energy sources and the mark these systems leave on the landscape, a major concern for Feinstein and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Feinstein was particularly critical of the large area that solar and wind plants encompass, since a large number of these plants are proposed to be built in her home state of California. She stressed that eight solar projects in California are proposed to be built on BLM land, land that is supposed to be conserved. She wanted to know if other, more suitable lands were being considered, and if the developers would be held responsible for the lasting change they leave on the land. Feinstein maintained that she is “for [solar and wind plants], but for this in moderation, without leaving an enduring blight upon the land.” 

Alexander had a similar query about the wind turbines on ridges in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains, commenting that nuclear power is still needed when the wind is gone and the sun does not shine. His main point was that even if wind turbines were installed across the entire state of Tennessee, this would only produce one fourth the amount of energy as one nuclear unit. He expressed his distaste in the overwhelming presence of wind farms on mountain ridges by saying simply, “They are ugly,” emphasized by the fact that wind turbines had to be fifteen to twenty miles offshore before they could not be seen. Salazar responded to these worries by making it clear that the new energy frontier is here. The DOI has an ongoing land use planning process of screening the entire landscape before deciding where the plants will be located. He then underscored the fact that these renewable energy plants could create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. 

Senator Reed (D-RI) followed up on the renewable energy concerns with a plea for the DOI to designate a team to work with the state of Rhode Island to verify the science of the offshore wind energy plans and to analyze the impact these will have on the fishing industry. Reed is intent on moving these plans forward and requested the assistance of the MMS to accomplish this. Salazar indicated that he supports such analyses.

Senator Tester (D-MT) noted the elimination of abandoned mine funds in the DOI budget. Salazar responded that they had considered the funds for mine clean-up from the ARRA, and decided that those were suitable in comparison to the greater need of other DOI projects. Tester remarked that he will make sure the mine clean-ups do not fall under the radar. Feinstein followed by mentioning the 47,000 abandoned mines in California, of which 13,000 are on BLM land. She then cited her bill on the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Act (S. 140), asking Salazar to take a look at it. With $52 million from the stimulus package and her own efforts in the previous years to establish funding for mine clean-up, she is frustrated that she has not seen the results or even a prioritized list of what mines will be cleaned. Salazar commented that as soon as he gets the personnel at DOI, he will work on creating a prioritized list.

The testimony of Interior Secretary Salazar can be found here, and a video archive of the entire hearing can be found here.


Sources: Department of Interior budget documents; USGS budget documents; National Park Service budget documents; U.S. Forest Service budget documents; White House Office of Management and Budget; CQ Budget Tracker; Library of Congress Congressional Record website; hearing testimony.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Linda Rowan and Corina Cerovski-Darriau, AGI Government Affairs Staff; Stephanie Praus, AGI/AIPG Summer 2009 Intern.

Last updated June 26, 2009