The President’s fiscal year 2020 federal budget was released on March 11th, marking the start of the annual appropriations process. Both the House and Senate have already begun hearings to discuss the proposed budget, and much like last year, the proposal seems to be a non-starter with both parties.
The President’s budget proposes to reduce agency budgets significantly, with an overall reduction of 15% for the US Department of Agriculture alone. These reductions come at the expense of crucial programs of interest to rural communities and restoration efforts, including the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, Community Forestry and Open Space Conservation program, Forest Legacy Program and the Joint Fire Science Program. In addition to outright eliminations, the budget also includes significant reductions to a number of Budget Line Items (BLIs), including a 46% reduction in State & Private Forestry.
In addition to proposed reductions, the Administration is also proposing to dramatically reshape the structure of the Forest Service budget. This proposal would collapse multiple BLIs, including Hazardous Fuels, Land Management Planning, Forest Products, Vegetation & Watershed Management, Wildlife and Fisheries Habitat Management, and Forest and Rangeland Research into one “Vegetation, Fuels and Landscape Management” line item. Additionally, the proposed structure would eliminate “cost pools” (essentially an internal overhead rate) and create a new “General Management” category.
The Integrated Resource Restoration pilot demonstrated that even small changes to budget structures can have profound unintended implications. Collapsing and simplifying an extremely diverse range of natural resource management activities into one line item may put a broad range of community and conservation values at risk.
RVCC will remain actively engaged in the appropriations process to share priorities of rural, community-based organizations with elected officials.
For more information, see our brief memo on the budget.