WASHINGTON -- With a focus on outdoor recreation, renewable energy, environmentally-sound oil and gas development, sage-grouse conservation, and other key priorities, President Obama today requested $1.1 billion in appropriations for the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management in Fiscal Year 2013. This request is essentially level with the FY 2012 enacted level for the BLM, which employs 10,365 full-time equivalent staff.
"Today's budget proposal reflects the need to make tough choices at a time when Federal spending must be restrained," said BLM Director Bob Abbey. "Our public lands and resources are some of America's greatest assets, and under this budget proposal we target investments to advance the BLM's mission of protecting these lands for multiple uses, including recreation, conservation, and safe and responsible energy development."
The BLM is one of a handful of Federal agencies that generates more revenue than it spends. In FY 2011, nearly $4.2 billion in revenues was generated from onshore energy development on Federal lands, with about half of those revenues going to the states where the leasing occurred. The economic output associated with the public lands is enormous. Based on a Department study, in 2010, extractive and non-extractive uses of BLM-managed lands and minerals generated an estimated total economic output of slightly more than $122 billion nationwide and supported approximately 550,000 American jobs.
Under the President's proposed budget, the BLM will focus on the following priorities:
Outdoor Recreation - The BLM plays a vital role in advancing the President's conservation initiative to reconnect Americans to the outdoors. The 2013 budget includes proposed program increases of $6.3 million for recreation, cultural resources, and the National Landscape Conservation System that would enable the BLM to expand and improve opportunities for recreation, education, and scientific activities. A $1.1 million increase in the Cultural Resources Management program would allow the BLM to accelerate inventories and surveys to determine the presence of archaeological, paleontological, and historical resources; conduct more stabilization and protection projects; and expand interpretation and information sharing. A proposed $2.2 million increase in the Recreation Resources Management program would enable the BLM to develop and implement more travel management plans and strengthen management of national scenic and historic trails and national wild and scenic rivers. The budget request also includes a $3 million increase in the National Monuments and National Conservation Areas program to make it possible for the BLM to strengthen law enforcement, enhance visitor safety and experiences, and expand interpretation programs and products.
The 2013 budget request also includes increases for programs funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a vital component of the America's Great Outdoors initiative. The 2013 budget proposal includes $33.6 million for BLM's land acquisition program, an increase of $11.2 million over FY 2012 funding. Of this amount, the BLM would use $6.0 million for an interagency collaborative effort to acquire ecologically significant landscapes.
New Energy Frontier Initiative - The President's 2013 budget request includes a program increase of $5 million in new funding to further promote and facilitate the development of renewable energy on public lands. The new funds would support ongoing management of geothermal energy development, replacing mandatory funding previously available for this purpose, and also support additional studies to accelerate the identification of areas best-suited for utility-scale solar and wind energy projects. The budget also transfers $2 million in base geothermal energy funding currently in the Oil and Gas Management program to the Renewable Energy Management program.
The 2013 budget request would also provide the BLM with the necessary funds to facilitate timely access to Federal oil and gas resources, make sure they are developed in an environmentally sound manner, and ensure that the Federal government is collecting its proper share of revenue from oil and gas production on public lands. A proposed $5 million increase would restore the BLM's leasing and oversight capacity to the 2011 enacted level, and a $3 million increase would be used for regional-level studies relating to conventional energy issues. An additional $5 million would enable the Bureau to continue implementation of its 2010 leasing reforms. These reforms establish a more orderly, open, consistent, and environmentally sound process for developing oil and gas resources on public lands, which will help reduce potential conflicts that can lead to costly and time-consuming protests and litigation of leases.
The 2013 budget request also proposes to expand and strengthen the BLM's oil and gas inspection capability through the imposition of fees on industry. The fee schedule included in the budget would generate an estimated $48 million in collections, which would offset a proposed reduction of $38 million in appropriated funds, providing for a net increase of $10 million available for this critical BLM management responsibility.
Sage-Grouse Conservation - The President's budget proposal requests a $15 million increase for the BLM to implement important sage-grouse conservation measures to help prevent the future listing of this species for protection under the Endangered Species Act. In its March 2010 ruling that listing the species was "warranted but precluded," the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stated that the BLM was not fully implementing the necessary measures to ensure species conservation. The BLM has been working closely with 10 Western states, as well as Federal, state, and local partners, to amend multiple land-use plans to ensure short-term and long-term conservation and restoration measures for the Greater sage-grouse and its habitat. The BLM seeks to amend these plans in a way that protects the health of the land and facilitates safe and responsible energy development and recreational opportunities that power the U.S. economy. This planning process was formally initiated in late 2011, and the additional funds requested in 2013 will enable the BLM to ramp up this process and take other actions to address the concerns of the FWS before the Service makes a final decision on whether to list the sage grouse in 2015.
Western Oregon Forest Management Strategy - The President's 2013 budget request includes an increase of $1.5 million in the Oregon and California Forest Management program to increase the volume of timber offered for sale; support key resource management planning objectives; increase surveying for rare, uncommon, or endangered species; provide for landscape-level timber sale project environmental analysis; and facilitate joint development and implementation of a revised recovery plan for the northern spotted owl.
Wild Horse and Burro Management Strategy - To advance Secretary Salazar's wild horse and burro management strategy, the President's proposed budget calls for a $2.0 million program increase that would fund research and development of population-control methods. The goal is to slow the annual population growth rate for wild horses, which would require fewer or smaller gathers of horses and reduce off-the-range holding costs, the largest single cost-driver in the program.
Budget Reductions and Offsetting Fees - Difficult choices were made during the formulation of the 2013 budget in order to support the initiatives and priorities described above. The President's budget request would decrease grazing administration costs by $15.8 million, but the impact of this decrease would be mitigated by a new grazing administration fee of $1 per animal unit month, generating an estimated $6.5 million in 2013 to help the BLM in processing grazing permits. The budget proposal would reduce funding for the Alaska Conveyance program by $12.4 million while the Interior Department looks for ways to further streamline and reduce costs in the program. Other proposed decreases include: a $3.5 million reduction in the Public Domain forest management program; a $2.5 million decrease in the Youth in the Great Outdoors Initiative; and a reduction of $2.0 million in the abandoned mine lands program. The budget request would also eliminate the construction appropriation account with a proposed reduction of $3.6 million.