The Biden administration’s budget contains encouraging signals for conservation funding.
Credit: Roger Helmer, MEP
On May 28 the Biden administration released its budget proposals for fiscal year 2022. Coinciding with the President’s proclamation of June as Great Outdoors Month, the administration’s first budget request displayed an inspiring commitment to conservation, recreation, equity and celebration of America’s natural beauty. A lot of press coverage of the six trillion dollar proposals focused on big picture implications of deficits, taxes, and potential for inflation in the years ahead. The budget estimates for the Department of the Interior are a relatively small part of the big economic picture but are of tremendous importance for the Chesapeake and its watershed.
The Interior Department’s budget “in brief” covers 262 pages including details on how more than $17 billion will be used to support 13 different bureaus. Interior’s request for 2022 includes an increase of $2.5 billion, or 17 percent, from the 2021 enacted level. For the National Park Service, the 2022 request is $3.5 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $380.6 million from the 2021 enacted level.
Of special interest to us in the Chesapeake region, the Gateways and Water Trail Grants program is requested at $3 million. Funds also are requested to buy land for four national park units in the Chesapeake watershed: Rock Creek Park, 8 acres, $100,000; Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, 16 acres, $340,000; Gettysburg National Military Park, 10 acres, $275,000; and Petersburg National Battlefield, 508 acres, $1.475 million. The budget request includes:
- $337.0 million for conservation grants to states and territories. Included in this total is $117.9 million for competitive Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program grants, which help build parks in underserved communities, primarily in urban settings.
- $18.9 million for American Battlefield Protection Programs grants.
- an additional $121.0 million, for conservation grants to states and territories through revenue derived from certain offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. These programs directly support land and resource conservation and increase access to outdoor recreation across America.
Credit: National Park Service/Kyle Just
Gettysburg National Military Park could gain 10 acres and possibly benefit from the American Battlefield Protection Program.
Credit: Destination DC
Climate, Climate, Climate
The numbers are important, but even more noteworthy are the differences in policy and philosophy between the 2022 budget request and the budget proposals in the previous administration. For FY 2022, the budget highlights the Biden administration’s commitments to:
- strengthen climate resilience and conservation partnerships;
- create jobs and invest in healthy lands, waters, and economies of energy in communities across the country;
- increase renewable energy production on public lands and waters to support a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035;
- advance science and transparency across the Department and better incorporate scientific information into evidence-driven programmatic decisions;
- honor and strengthen commitments to Tribal nations by increasing investments in self-determination and self-government programs to bolster Tribal sovereignty;
- advance equity and racial justice and support underserved communities; and
- rebuild core functions and capacities within Interior, which have diminished in recent years.
These principles are quite different from the priorities identified in the DOI budget for 2020. Those included: fiscal responsibility, regulatory reform, expanding access to grow the outdoor economy, active forest management, securing the southern border and energy and mineral security.
By contrast, the 2022 budget recognizes climate resilience as a major issue, emphasizes renewable energy production, promotes science, and supports actions to address equity. For example, the NPS budget includes:
- $269.6 million in increases to advance President Biden’s climate and conservation goals and restore technical capacity in land management, including investments in climate-related science and zero emission vehicles (ZEVs);
- an increase of $10.0 million under the resource stewardship account for Climate Science activities to identify changes in and stressors to park resources;
- an additional $10 million increase in the construction account for climate vulnerability assessments;
- an additional $45.0 million for the Civilian Climate Corps. The CCC is described as “an important jobs initiative that draws on America’s strength to work together and build back better to revitalize public lands, infrastructure,
- and communities while creating jobs and providing pathways to employment that are inclusive of those from underserved and marginalized communities, returning veterans, and people of all ages.”
Rock Creek Park in DC stands to gain 8 acres if President Biden’s request is funded.
Credit: Destination DC
Diversity and Inclusion:
The 2022 request includes:
- $800,000 as part of a Department-wide Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility initiative to address identified high-priority needs in support of Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities.
- an additional $15.0 million for parks and program operations that preserve and tell the story of historically underrepresented and marginalized groups, including a $5.0 million increase for the African American Civil Rights Network.
Budget requests for the Environmental Protection Agency, US Geological Survey, the USDA Forest Service, and NOAA also will support important programs in the Chesapeake Bay. Of course the budget requests mark the starting line for the typically long and contentious process of getting an appropriations bill adopted by Congress and signed by the President. Yet the outlook provides some interesting opportunities for us to consider and to watch as the year unfolds, as they align well with our work in all priority areas.
Don’t forget to send us your 2020 land conservation success stories as they develop. They’ll land in the new and growing collection at success.chesapeakeconservation.org, a tool we can all use to show collective impact. See the checklist below for easy-to-follow, simple guidelines.