Appropriation Bills Give Funding Boostby CBB Staff
The Fish and Wildlife Service's empty endangered species listing budget is likely to receive a modest increase next year.
Both the House and Senate appropriation bills for the Interior Department would provide $12.3 million in FY2004, matching the amount sought by President Bush in his budget request. Environmental groups say the $3.3 million increase does not come close to meeting the need for studying a large backlog of candidate species.
Earlier this year, the Fish and Wildlife Service halted further work on court-ordered critical habitat designations for already listed species because of a $2 million shortfall in this year's budget. Saying the process was "broken," administration officials asked Congress to provide the additional $2 million and to pass legislation modifying the Endangered Species Act to give officials more discretion in critical habitat decisions. So far, neither the House nor Senate appropriations committees have responded to those requests.
By a vote of 268-152 on Thursday, the House passed its FY04 interior spending bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version earlier the same day. A date for Senate floor action on the bill has not been set.
The House defeated, 228-197, an amendment by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D Ore., to limit the kinds of crops farmers can grow in Klamath Basin wildlife refuges. Conflicts over scarce water supplies in the basin have been ongoing between irrigators and environmentalists and Indians, who want more federal water to be used to protect endangered suckerfish and salmon.
The House bill includes a provision cutting off federal funding for the Klamath Fishery Management Council, a federal advisory group with representatives from commercial and recreational ocean and river fishermen, tribes, and state and federal agencies. Rep. Wally Herger, R Calif., is seeking to defund the council over its criticism of water use by farmers in the upper Klamath Basin of California and Oregon.
The Senate bill does not include the funding restriction.
For all Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species programs, the Senate committee approved $135.2 million, a $3.4 million increase over the current year and $700,000 over the House-passed bill.
The Senate committee recommended $46 million for the consultation program, $82.1 million for habitat conservation, and $66.7 million for the recovery program. The panel earmarked $1.4 million in habitat funds for Washington state regional salmon enhancement and another $500,000 for salmon restoration work in Puget Sound in cooperation with the Seattle Art Museum.
For hatchery operations and maintenance, the Senate bill provides $55.7 million, about $3 million less than the House version but $1.6 million more than the current year budget.
The Senate bill boosted funding for state and tribal wildlife grants to $75 million, with $5 million of that for tribes. The total is $15 million more than Bush sought and $10 million over this year.
In their report on the bill, Senate committee leaders expressed concern that the Fish and Wildlife Service has not beefed up its consultation staff sufficiently to review the many new hazardous forest fuels reduction projects being planned by the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service. Noting that the service can be reimbursed for the work by the action agencies, they directed the agency to prepare a report to the House and Senate appropriations committees explaining how it plans to address the increased workload.
Within the recovery budget, $1.2 million was recommended for wolf recovery in Idaho, more than double the House earmark for the reintroduction program. The Senate committee allocated $400,000 to the Nez Perce Tribe, $100,000 to the Snake River Basin Fish and Wildlife Service office, $460,000 to the governor's Office of Species Conservation, and $200,000 to be allocated by the Nez Perce Tribe, Office of Species Conservation and Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to a memorandum of agreement between the tribe and the state.
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, a committee member, said he was pleased the panel recognized "the impact endangered species have on Idaho citizens by supporting my funding requests for their management."
Other earmarks in the Senate bill, include:
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