At the House Appropriations Fiscal Year 2020 budget hearings, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt defended the Trump administration’s anti-public lands budget proposal that slashes the department he now oversees. President Trump’s proposed budget reduces the Interior Department’s appropriations by some 14 percent and virtually zeros out the popular and bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
In response, Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger issued the following statement:
“A budget proposal is effectively a reflection of the Trump administration’s values. For David Bernhardt and the Trump administration, special interest handouts and tax cuts for the wealthy are more important than protecting our public lands, parks, and wildlife. This abysmal budget proposal that undermines America’s public lands should be resoundingly rejected by Congress.”
In addition to gutting the LWCF, a popular public access and parks program permanently reauthorized just a few months ago by Congress with strong bipartisan support, the budget proposal leaves the National Park Service, still reeling from the historic government shutdown, short some $460 million.
Bernhardt promised Congress that he’d come up with “creative ways to implement” the LWCF, but his rhetoric doesn’t match the administration’s reality. Such staggering cuts are not a new practice for this administration: Trump’s 2018 budget proposal tried to cut the LWCF by 84 percent and his 2019 budget pursued an astonishing 98 percent in cuts.
The LWCF, created in 1964 using revenue from offshore oil and gas leasing to fund federal, state and local conservation and parks projects, has seen some $22 billion diverted from the program since funding lapsed earlier this year.
The Trump administration and Bernhardt have been trying to defend their draconian budget cuts on the back of America’s outdoor heritage as the national deficit has hit historic proportions due to the administration’s fiscally irresponsible special interest giveaways and tax cuts for the wealthy.