Examining the Spending Priorities and Missions of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service
Statement of Brian Steed
Deputy Director for Policy & Programs
Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Department of the Interior
House Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands
The 2020 President's Budget Request
April 10, 2019
Madam Chair and Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to be here today to discuss the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Budget Request. Given the Subcommittee's jurisdiction, this testimony focuses on the BLM's land, recreation, and natural resource management programs.
The BLM manages approximately 245 million acres of surface land and over 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate on behalf of the American people.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) sets forth the BLM's multiple-use and sustained yield mission, directing that public lands be managed for a variety of uses, ranging from conventional and renewable energy development, livestock grazing, conservation, mining, watershed protection, hunting, fishing, and other forms of recreation. The BLM manages lands with some of the most advanced energy development in the world and some of North America's most wild, historic, and scenic landscapes. Because of this, Federal lands support the production of goods and services that create jobs and promote economic development in communities across the Nation. Revenues generated from the public lands make the BLM one of the top revenue generating Federal agencies. States and counties use these important funds to support the building and maintenance of roads, schools, and other community needs. The BLM's multiple use mission advances the President's priorities of energy security, shared conservation stewardship, safe borders, and putting Americans back to work, while also emphasizing the interconnection between people, the public lands, and the economy.
Collaboration and cooperation are hallmarks of the BLM's multiple use management approach. The Bureau engages a wide range of stakeholders and communities to inform its land management decisions. These efforts are essential in order for the Federal government to be a good neighbor to and steward for local communities.
FY 2020 Budget Overview
The Bureau's 2020 budget requests $1.2 billion, including $ I .08 billion for the Management of Lands and Resources (MLR) appropriation and $ 107.0 million for the Oregon and California Grant Lands (O&C) appropriation — the BLM's two main operating accounts.
The FY 2020 budget supports opportunities for outdoor recreation, sustainable timber harvesting, grazing, and promotes responsible energy and mineral development. In tandem with the budget, the Administration proposes a package of forest management legislative reforms to provide the Department with tools to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires.
The BLM FY 2020 budget request reflects and strengthens the Administration's commitment in the following areas:
Active Forest Management and Being a Good Neighbor
The budget request reflects the Administration's priority of restoring regulatory balance, expanding access to public lands, and enhancing public trust and being a good neighbor in the communities that are home to BLM lands. On the heels of one of the Nation's most devastating wildland fire seasons, the Budget supports the important objectives laid out in President Trump's Executive Order (E.O.) 13855, Promoting Active Management of America's Forests, Rangeland, and Other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk. The BLM budget prioritizes active forest management as necessary to achieve the targets set forth in the E.O. and invests $10.2 million in 2020 for forest management on public domain lands. The 2020 BLM budget also requests $107.0 million in the Oregon and California Grant Lands appropriation, much of which will lay the groundwork to increase the amount of timber offered for sale there to 280 million board feet (MMBF) in 2021, reflecting the BLM's commitment to advance timber production and forest health. Approximately 226 MMBF were sold in 2018.
In tandem with the Budget, the Administration is proposing a package of forest management legislative reforms, which includes categorical exclusions for fuels management work. These authorities will promote shared stewardship across ownership boundaries and improve the ability to treat additional acres more efficiently and effectively, thereby reducing fire risk and making meaningful progress toward resilient landscapes and fire-adapted communities. This will provide the Bureau with the necessary tools to help protect firefighters and communities from wildfire by emphasizing forest management strategies that significantly increase resilience to wildfire, insects, disease, and drought, as well as support timber harvests and biomass utilization.
Conserving Our Land and Water Resources
The BLM continues to focus on high priority work across the Land Resources, Wildlife and Aquatics, Recreation Management, and Resource Protection and Maintenance activities. These activities support many of the Department's high priority goals, including energy independence, expanded recreation, and shared conservation.
Balancing habitat conservation and responsible development of public land resources ensures the best outcome for the people and wildlife that rely on these lands. The BLM's 2020 budget request builds on the results of ongoing efforts including implementing "outcome based grazing" and sage-grouse management plan amendments, which better align Federal habitat conservation efforts with State wildlife management plans.
The BLM will invest $7.0 million in habitat identification and habitat restoration efforts across multiple programs, which will help implement Secretarial Order 3362, Improving Habitat in Western Big-Game and Migration Corridors. This funding will be used in coordination with States to support big game as well as evaluation and implementation of habitat restoration.
In addition, the 2020 budget request provides $92.0 million for the Rangeland Management program. To better leverage resources and focus funding on more complex gazing permit processing requirements, the BLM will continue to use the authority provided under section 402(c) of the FLPMA. The BLM administers about 18,000 grazing permits and leases within almost 22,000 grazing allotments on approximately 155 million acres of public land. Grazing permits are generally issued for ten years, which means that renewing grazing permits is a cyclical process and not a one-time event. The BLM will continue efforts to improve and streamline grazing permit processing to achieve greater efficiencies and service to permittees while striving to meet land condition objectives. The BLM plans to continue or expand recent demonstration projects using Outcome Based Grazing Authorizations.
Finally, the budget seeks $75.7 million for the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro program, which in 2020 will continue to identify innovative ways to address the burden that growing wild horse and burro populations put on fragile rangeland resources and taxpayer resources. The program will seek to increase public/private partnerships to place more animals into private care while also working with organizations to create public/private partnerships on pasture lands. The program will also work with academia and Federal partners to enhance existing sterilization methods and fertility control vaccines, develop new population controls through research projects, and continue to pursue adoptions and sales, including incentivizing adoptions.
Expanding Outdoor Recreation
The BLM is committed to the Administration's priority of expanding access for the American public to the vast recreation resources on BLM-managed public lands, including enhancing opportunities for hunting, fishing, and many other uses.
In 2018, DOI records indicate that visitor recreation exceeded 67 million visitors on public lands, and it is estimated that the BLM will exceed over 70 million visitors in 2020. Visitors to these lands enjoy countless types of outdoor adventure — participating in activities as widely varied as camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, boating, whitewater rafting, hang-gliding, off-highway vehicle driving, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, photography, climbing, many types of winter sports, and visiting remarkable natural and cultural sites.
Currently, the BLM manages over 3,600 developed recreation sites and areas; administers over 4,500 permits for commercial, competitive, and organized group activities; and provides the public with thousands of miles of motorized and non-motorized trails. Recreational experiences are especially important in the growing West and contribute to local economies.
The FY 2020 budget request promotes a holistic approach to managing our recreational lands and cultural resources, which will be implemented through more streamlined recreational and cultural resources management. The budget proposes $54.8 million for Recreation Resources Management to meet growing public demand and will focus on areas in need of visitor services at the highest visitation sites.
The budget also includes $37.1 million for the National Monuments and National Conservation Areas program to manage designated historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest on the public lands, and to support outstanding recreational opportunities and public access.
The Cultural Resources Management program, which supports the inventory, protection, and stabilization of BLM cultural sites, will receive $15.6 million in FY 2020. The program will continue to provide support and guidance on consultation with Tribes and to other BLM programs.
Modernizing the BLM
In 2018, the Department announced the designation of Interior's 12 new unified regional boundaries. Establishing unified regional boundaries across Interior bureaus will improve Interior's service delivery to the public across Interior bureaus. Within each shared region, bureaus will focus work on the same resources and constituents and improve coordination across the Department. For the public, fewer regions make it easier to do business with Interior, particularly when it involves several bureaus or jurisdictions. The FY 2020 budget request includes an increase of $7.7 million to support implementation of the Department's reorganization.
Implementing Public Law 116-9, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act
On March 28, 2019, Acting Secretary Bernhardt signed Secretarial Order 3374 to facilitate and prioritize implementation of Public Law 116-9, which is sweeping public lands legislation with provisions affecting all 50 States. This Act establishes many conservation and recreation special management desi8ffltions, provides for a number of significant land sales, transfers, and exchanges, and resolves many long-standing and complicated land tenure issues on lands managed by the Department. Secretarial Order 3374 will also ensure consistency among all offices and bureaus within the Department. While all of the Department's bureaus are affected by the new law, over 30 of the individual sections apply to public lands managed by the BLM. As directed by Secretarial Order 3374, the BLM is working expeditiously to implement the sections of the new law.
The President's FY 2020 budget request for the BLM provides sustainable benefits across the West and for the Nation. The BLM takes pride in its collaborative efforts to manage the public lands in a way that helps to create and sustain jobs, increase access and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities nationwide, and to maintain productive working landscapes for grazing and timber. I look forward to working with the Subcommittee to provide the BLM with the tools and resources necessary to achieve these important Administration objectives.
Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony.