Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
John Wright
For Immediate Release:November 10, 2003

Secretary Norton Applauds Sen. Burns
Support of Interior 2004 Budget

(WASHINGTON) - Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton today praised Montana Sen. Conrad Burns for his support of the Department of the Interior Appropriations Bill, which President Bush signed into law today.

"I applaud Senator Burns for his strong support for the programs of the Interior Department," Norton said. "Thanks to him and other congressional supporters, the budget provides funding for major initiatives to improve national parks, build and restore Indian schools, improve forest and rangeland health, and suppress catastrophic wildland fires," Norton said. "It also contains provisions to enhance traditional and renewable energy and to improve management of our wildlife refuges and other public lands."

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 includes funds to ensure that wildland fire operations important to the state of Montana will be funded. It will also provide for the responsible development of energy resources on public lands, and improve water related issues that are critical to the State of Montana.

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. These conference amounts include a 0.646 percent across-the-board reduction.

Budget 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 program.

     The 2004 budget provides $497,000 for Take Pride in America - to rally citizens to become engaged through volunteerism 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 budget 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, local companies.

        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 attack capability.

       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 Reform Act.

         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 requested for cyclic maintenance.



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