A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
(Note: The conference report in the Interior and Related Agencies Bill (H.R. 4578) was filed about noon on September 29: H. Report 106-914.)
Overall Funding Levels. The conferees addressed many funding shortfalls that the Department identified as problematic throughout the appropriations process, including BIA's trust funding, BLM's special areas, BIA school operations, important Federal land acquisition priorities and USGS science support. The final conference version of the bill provides $9.4 billion for Interior. Combined with $816 million in the Interior appropriations in the Energy and Water Development 2001 appropriations bill as conferenced and passed by the House, the overall budget for 2001 would be $10.2 billion.
Lands Legacy Initiative/Land Conservation, Preservation, and Infrastructure Improvement Program. After protracted negotiations with the Administration, the conferees agreed to create a six-year $12.0 billion Land Conservation, Preservation, and Infrastructure Improvement Program as an alternative to the President's Lands Legacy Proposal. The 2001 program includes a new category of funding in Title VIII that provides $1.6 billion, $1.2 billion of which is for Interior and Forest Service programs, including: Federal and State LWCF funding ($385 million for Interior; $155 million for Forest Service), State and other conservation programs ($220 million for Interior; $80 million for Forest Service); urban and historic preservation ($118 million for Interior; $36 million for Forest Service; $6.0 million for YCC); maintenance ($100 million for Interior; $50 million for Forest Service), and PILT payments ($50 million for Interior). The remaining $400 million is for coastal programs in NOAA. Total funding amounts are available under a cap and fence structure. Funds are set aside under the budget resolution and can only be spent for new land conservation, preservation and infrastructure improvement activities (cap mechanism). While funds are subject to appropriations through the annual appropriations process, they may not be spent on any other purposes (fencing mechanism). Funding within the cap and fence will grow by $160 million a year, reaching a total of $2.4 billion by 2006.
Fire. The conferees provide a total of $978.8 million for wildland fire management, including $553.7 million in contingent emergency funding. This level fully supports the Secretary's September 15 recommendations to the President and is $682 million above what was requested in the original 2001 budget request. It supports expansion of rehabilitation and restoration efforts on burned areas. White House and Congressional negotiators agreed upon bill language that provides the Secretaries discretion to implement procedures that would streamline and shorten NEPA and ESA clearances.
Priority Federal Land Acquisition. As part of the new Land Conservation, Preservation, and Infrastructure Improvement Program, the conferees provided a total of $293.9 million for Federal land acquisition for Interior bureaus: $31.1 million for BLM ($60.9 million requested); $62.8 million for FWS ($111.6 million requested); $70.0 million for NPS ($147.5 million requested). The remaining $130.0 million for Interior will be allocated by the Committees at a later date.
Land Management Operations. The conference version of the bill provides slightly more than $3.0 billion for land management operations for the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. This is $236.6 million or 8.4 percent above the 2000 enacted level, and $22.3 million or 0.7 percent above the President's budget request. The conferees establish a new, separate account for the U.S. Park Police.
Construction. The conference version of the bill provides $679.5 million for the construction programs of the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This is $196.1 million, or 41 percent, above the request and $78.1 million or 13 percent above the enacted level. The bill provides full funding for six schools on BIA's new school priority list as requested in the Budget.
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The Conference mark funds BIA at $2.1 billion, an increase of $272.1 million above the 2000 enacted level, but $59.8 below the President's budget request. The conference bill provides the full request for the BIA component of the Rocky Boys water settlement and implementation of the NAPA recommendations. The conferees provided $67.9 million of the $71.2 million requested for BIA's trust reform efforts. While this is $3.3 million below the amount requested, it is substantially higher than initial funding provided in both the House and the Senate versions of the bill. Funding for school operations was also increased in conference above both the House and Senate levels. The conference version of the bill includes $489.5 million for school operations, $17.1 million below the request, but $22.6 million above the 2000 level. Additional funding was provided in conference for the Housing Improvement Program ($+4 million), FACE (+$3.6 million), and the therapeutic model ($+3.0 million).
Indian Trust Programs/Office of the Special Trustee. The conferees fund the Office of the Special Trustee at $119.2 million. The bill fully funds all of the request for trust reform efforts within OST, including an additional $27.6 million for needs related to the Cobell litigation and funding to correct the breaches of trust that were identified after the budget was sent to the Congress. The bill funds $9.0 million of the $12.5 million requested for the land consolidation account, $4.0 million more than the 2000 level.
Science Programs. The conference provides $887 million for Interior science programs, including the $25 million provided under the Land Conservation, Preservation, and Infrastructure Improvement Program. While this is $8.3 million below the 2001 request, it is $73.7 million above the 2000 enacted level. Within the total, the bill provides: $8.0 million above the 2000 enacted level for USGS science centers and $3.4 million of the $13.0 million requested for "DOI Science Priorities" to be used to fund high priority research needs of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
BLM's Public Land Treasures Initiative. The conference bill provides a total of $11.4 million ($8.0 million on top of the $3.4 million provided in the Senate version of the bill) of the $16.0 million increase requested for this initiative. Neither the House nor the Senate had provided any of the increase requested for operations of national monuments, national conservation areas, Headwaters Forest, Otay Mountain wilderness, and wild and scenic rivers. The conference report provides that the funding must be directed to National Conservation Areas, National Historic Trails, and Wild and Scenic Rivers.
Abandoned Mine Lands. The conference bill provides $5.7 million of the $14.4 million increase requested by the Administration for AML reclamation grants. Within this increase, the bill includes a $2 million increase in funds available for the Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative. The conferees provided an additional $98.0 million in emergency funding for the Combined Benefit Fund to help meet the health care costs of those retired coal miners and their dependents that can be assigned to responsible operators, and $12.6 million for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to address reclamation and acid mine drainage (AMD) remediation in its anthracite coal region. In addition to these funds, the 2000 Emergency Supplemental bill, enacted on July 13th, provides $9.8 million for West Virginia's surface mining regulatory program to enhance program capabilities and address staffing issues.
Office of the Solicitor. The conferees provided only $40.2 million for the Solicitor, the same level as the House, $3.8 million below the request. This level of funding poses the possibility of a reduction in the Solicitor's staffing by suspending hiring behind vacancies or other more drastic management options. This level does not fund year-to-year fixed cost changes.