(WASHINGTON) - Interior Secretary Gale Norton today applauded
members of the United States Congress for their support of the Department's
Appropriation Bill, which President Bush signed into law today.
The 2004 Interior budget
provides $9.9 billion for the Department's programs and operations,
which exceeds the 2003 level by 111.5 million and funds vital land,
water, and wildlife management programs across
"We are pleased with Congress's
support for our conservation vision," Secretary Norton said."The bill
provides funding for major initiatives to improve national parks, build
and restore Indian schools, improve forest and rangeland health, and
suppress catastrophic wildlandfires. It also contains provisions to
enhance traditional and renewable energy and to improve management of
our wildlife refuges and other public lands."
Including a recent budget
amendment of $99 million for fire, the President's budget request for
discretionary appropriations for Department of the Interior programs
in the Interior bill totaled $9.86 billion. The conference agreement
is $58 million or 0.6 percent below the President's budget request.
highlights include the following:
For the second year,
Congress has provided increases for Secretary Norton's Cooperative Conservation
Initiative. The total 2004 appropriation for CCI is $110.3 million. This is $18.9 million over 2003 and cumulatively
$35.4 million over 2002. This includes an increase over 2003 of $4.8
million for the Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife
The 2004 budget provides
$497,000 for Take Pride in America - to rally citizens to become engaged through volunteerism
and fund raising to leverage federal investments in conservation partnerships
effectively and efficiently.
Congress provides $788
million for the Department's fire program, including $99 million to
repay funds borrowed in 2003. Suppression
activities are funded at the ten-year average, and the bill continues
robust funding of $185 million for fuels treatment.
For the Hazardous Fuels Reduction program, DOI will emphasize
collaborative efforts to protect wildland
urban interface communities. Fifty percent of on-the-ground fuels reduction
monies will fund contracts to protect communities and aid local economies,
and many of the fuels reduction contracts will be awarded to small,
The Congress funded
the Department's request of $10 million in grants funding to help equip
and train rural fire departments for wildfire preparedness and initial
Funding for the NPS
maintenance backlog is $704 million, comparable with the request. Combined with DOT funding for roads, the 2004
program will provide over $1 billion to parks maintenance.
Congress provides $297
million, slightly more than the requested level for BIA education construction.
This investment supports the President's "No Child Left Behind"
initiative and will allow us to replace school facilities at seven or
more locations and address critical health and safety concerns at a
number of other schools.
The 2004 appropriations
provide $72 million for the Natural Resource Challenge - our program
to improve the management of natural resources in parks. This brings cumulative increases in the program
since 2001 to $100.5 million.
The Congress funds federal
land acquisition at $109 million, $34 million below the request. The State grants component of LWCF is funded
at $94 million, $66 million below the request.
Congress funds our unified
Indian trust budget at $456 million. Congress limited funding for historical
accounting to $45 million, $85 million below our request. Bill language limits the scope of accounting
in 2004 pending actions by Congress to amend the 1994 Trust Management
The budget for the Bureau
of Land Management included increases for resource protection and restoration
while also facilitating access for energy development, funding to reinvigorate
forest health treatments, improve recreational opportunities, and services
on public lands, and funding to strengthen law enforcement capabilities.
The budget for the Fish
and Wildlife Service included increases for endangered species activities,
refuge operations and maintenance, migratory birds, law enforcement
programs and hatchery operations and maintenance.
For the National Park
Service, Congress funded the majority of the $16.4 million increase
for park base operations and the $14.3 million increase request for