Trump Administration Interior Department Budget Shifts Priorities

Published May 18, 2020

In its 2021 fiscal budget, the Trump administration has proposed an increase over its request for the Department of Interior (DOI) in 2020.

The Trump administration has requested Congress appropriate $12.84 billion for DOI’s operations in 2021, representing a $240 million increase over the administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2020. The proposed budget, however, still falls short of the $15.27 billion Congress eventually approved for DOI in 2020.

Among the key features of DOI’s budget proposal are devoting $50 million to create a more stable and permanent wildland firefighting workforce and adding $2.4 million to the Oil and Gas Permit Processing Improvement Fund within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Trump’s proposal also shifts some funding within DOI to manage and maintain existing federal lands, while cutting land acquisition funding in DOI and the Department of Agriculture by more than $18 million to $227 million, and cutting funding for federal land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund by $2.1 million.

Prioritizing Energy Independence

The Trump administration’s DOI budget rightly prioritized American energy dominance, says Bonner Cohen, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.

“By prioritizing the development of oil, natural gas, and coal on federal lands, the budget is spurning fashionable, but unreliable, wind and solar energy for energy Americans, and providing energy sources that the countries to which we will be exporting some of these resources really need,” Cohen said. “At a time when the global economy is being threatened by the coronavirus, it is important America focus on those resources that hold the promise of bringing about a swift economic recovery.

“Thanks to America’s geological gifts, solid property rights, and our technological prowess, entrepreneurs in the United States are capable of extracting these resources at a low cost and with minimal environmental impact,” said Cohen. “As a result, the United States is now the global energy superpower, with the Trump administration working to ensure our energy priorities on federal lands serve our national interest.”

Fossil fuels provide reliable power so the Trump administration is right to prioritize their development over intermittent renewable energy sources, says Craig Rucker, president of Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.

“Prioritizing expenditures on coal, gas, and oil exploration while cutting direct funding for alternative energy research makes perfect sense, because solar and wind energy yet to prove they are viable replacements to fossil fuel energy,” Rucker said. “We have many examples of nations around the world—Chile, Ecuador, and France come to mind—that have pushed expensive renewable energy initiatives and created huge public backlashes as costs soared.

“America, on the other hand, has become the envy of the world with its cheap, abundant energy, much of which we have locked up on federal lands, that should be opened up,” said Rucker. “A good economy gives you the financial resources to provide for a good environment and energy is crucial to creating a good economy, thus Trump’s DOI budget proposal is a win-win.”

Properly Manage Existing Holdings

The Congressional Research Service reports the Federal government currently manages between 635 and 640 million acres of the United States nearly 2.3 billion, much of which is in poor condition, and as such, Rucker says, the government is right to refocus is spending on maintaining and properly managing the lands it already owns rather than adding ever more land to the federal estate.

“I know many environmental groups are upset, but that is because they have long viewed DOI and BLM budgets as tools to buy up private land and put it under federal management,” Rucker said. “Fortunately, since Trump has been in office, those land acquisition projects have been scaled down and placed on life support.

“We’d like to see them eliminated altogether, hopefully soon, as they represent real threats to environmental quality, private property rights, personal liberty, and state sovereignty,” said Rucker.

Kevin Stone ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas