WASHINGTON, D.C.—President Trump has proposed an appropriation of $1.2 billion for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Fiscal Year 2021, providing the funds needed to strike the right balance of conservation and sustainable use of America’s BLM-managed public lands and resources.
The BLM’s budget request addresses key Administration priorities including increasing energy security, promoting good government, expanding opportunities for outdoor recreation, putting Americans back to work, and providing conservation stewardship for public lands. It allows for environmentally sound energy development, sustainable timber harvesting, grazing, and hard rock mining, while also providing for improved visitor experiences at the public lands, enhancing big game habitat and migratory corridors, and increasing the resilience of public lands by reducing fuels and invasive plant species that contribute to the spread of wildfire and threaten native species.
“President Trump’s 2021 budget request for the Department is about investing in our people and public lands and waters,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “He is committed to the mission of conservation and creating more public access for Americans to fully enjoy our national treasures and landscapes. This budget is a critical step in the right direction and provides a path to restore commonsense in our budgeting process.”
Providing Conservation Stewardship for Public Lands
From active timber, rangeland, and fire management to enhancing big game habitat and migratory corridors supporting sustainable grazing and increasing the resilience of public lands by reducing fuels and invasive plant species, the BLM continues its conservation stewardship of public lands.
The BLM budget prioritizes active forest and rangeland management to combat the threats posed by insect infestation, invasive species, and disease that contribute to the potential for catastrophic wildfire. In 2021, the budget invests $10.3 million for forest management on public domain lands and requests $112.8 million in the Oregon and California Grant Lands appropriation. The funding would allow the BLM greater flexibility in addressing fire resiliency in forest stands that have lower commercial viability but are located within high-risk areas or the wildland urban interface.
The BLM Fuels Management program accomplished a record-breaking 846,000 acres of fuels treatments in FY 2019, using a variety of active management vegetation treatments including mechanical, biological, and chemical tools as well as prescribed fire. This total exceeds the targets directed under Executive Order 13855, which sought 750,000 total acres of treatment from all of the DOI’s agencies.
In serving local communities, the BLM Fire and Aviation Community Assistance program provided over $9.6 million to communities at risk near BLM-managed public land for on-the-ground treatments, education and planning efforts to reduce wildfire risk. In addition, through the Rural Fire Readiness program, the BLM is working to transfer 35 excess wildland fire engines to local fire departments and Rangeland Fire Protection Associations.
To improve firefighter safety and increase operational efficiency, the BLM installed 240 Location Based Services units on wildland fire equipment in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Eastern States, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming in FY 2019, with a goal of 705 installations to be completed by the end of FY 2020. The GPS-based units will ensure tracking of BLM fire suppression resources and maximize operational efficiencies in the deployment of these resources.
Enhancing Visitor Experience on Public Lands
The BLM-managed public lands include some of America’s premier outdoor recreation spots. Outdoor enthusiasts hike, bike, camp, hunt, fish, ski, ride horses and snowmobiles, and drive off-highway vehicles on the lands the Bureau administers. Visitor satisfaction remains high, with 96 percent of visitors surveyed reporting overall satisfaction with the quality of their experience. It is estimated during FY 2021 the BLM will provide recreation opportunities for more than 72 million visitors.
On March 28, 2019, Secretary Bernhardt signed Secretarial Order 3374, Implementation of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, to facilitate and prioritize implementation of Public Law 116-9, which includes provisions affecting all 50 States. This Act established many conservation and recreation special management designations, provided for a number of land sales, transfers, and exchanges, and resolved many long-standing and complicated tenure issues on lands managed by the Department. The 2021 BLM budget provides significant resources in support of this Secretarial Order and the Administration’s priority of enhancing recreational opportunities and access, including $59.0 million for Recreation Resources Management.
The $37.6 million budget request for the National Monuments and National Conservation Areas program also supports recreation activities. These areas, protected by Congress and by Presidential proclamation, play an important role in providing outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, including hunting and fishing, and support local economies and job opportunities in many rural western communities. National Conservation Lands connect youth, veterans, and families to the outdoors through programs and recreational opportunities including internships for students, youth and veteran employment and training, and volunteer service.
Increasing Energy Security
Oil, natural gas, coal, renewable energy, and other mineral resources generate the highest revenue values of any uses of public lands from royalties, rents, bonuses, sales, and fees. The 2021 budget requests $199.3 million in the Energy and Minerals Management programs and reflects actions the BLM has taken to modernize environmental analysis and engage in stakeholder consultations. This includes $139.2 million for BLM’s oil and gas programs. Building on FY 2019 and FY 2020 efforts, the BLM will enhance efficiencies, reduce planning times, clarify permitting processes, and leverage technology to reduce processing times.
The BLM currently manages more than 3,744 megawatts of installed solar and wind generation capacity on public lands. In addition, BLM oversees more than 405 geothermal leases, with 79 leases in producing status generating approximately 2,000 megawatts of installed geothermal energy capacity. This amounts to more than 40 percent of the total U.S. geothermal energy capacity. The majority of BLM’s renewable energy program funding is spent on inspection and monitoring. The proposed 2021 funding level of $29.5 million for Renewable Energy will support continued wind, solar, and geothermal energy development on public lands.
The BLM proposes $18.9 million for the Coal Management Program and $11.8 million for programs associated with mining other minerals such as precious metals, trona, limestone, phosphates, sand, and gravel. These funds will be used to streamline program activities, expedite processing of applications, and provide for more timely inspection and enforcement actions. The BLM will also continue to facilitate and promote the exploration and development of critical minerals on public lands.
Promoting Good Government and Collaborative Conservation
The BLM continues to identify opportunities to improve overall operations, internal communications, customer service, and stakeholder engagement. The proposed budget supports the Secretary’s vision for a re-organized Department of the Interior that aligns regional boundaries to provide better coordination and focus resources in the field. The 2021 budget submission includes $4.8 million for the Joint Communication Infrastructure Improvement Project in the Southwest border region to provide shared infrastructure with other Interior agencies and complete communication along the border.
The budget request includes $237.0 million for the Land Resources activity, which provides for integrated management of public land resources, including forestry, range, cultural, and wild horses and burros. These programs work together to support the BLM mission by providing renewable resources, commercial, and recreational uses, healthy forests, healthy vegetative communities, stable and productive soils, and healthy rangeland ecosystems. The budget supports big game habitat restoration, actively managing lands to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, development and use of timber resources, and land stewardship.
Within the Land Resources activity, the budget proposes $116.8 million for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program – a $15.3 million increase over the FY 2020 enacted level – to address wild horse and burro herds on public lands, and provides clear direction to mitigate the unsustainable growth rate. The proliferation of wild horse herds on public lands, which now far exceed what is healthy for the land and the animals, has degraded ecosystem function and impeded resource availability for other wildlife species. The budget proposes unprecedented funding to address near-term program needs, and lays the groundwork for a potential long-term strategy to reduce the on-range population and achieve appropriate management levels. The budget request follows on the heels of a major boost in funding provided in FY 2020, and is consistent with Congressional direction to pursue a nonlethal management strategy. The Administration looks forward to working constructively with the Congress and stakeholders to ensure the long-term viability of wild horse and burro herds while meeting BLM’s land management obligations.