Zinke fails to “fight” for a better budget, praises cuts as eliminating “wasteful spending

Today, the Trump administration released a 2018 budget request that would gut funding for agencies that manage and protect our nation’s public lands. The proposal would slash the Interior Department’s budget by nearly 11 percent, or 1.5 billion.

When the initial budget proposal was released in March, Secretary Zinke vowed to fight drastic cuts to his department, saying:

“‘I looked at the budget… I’m not happy. We’re going to fight about it, and I think I’m going to win at the end of the day.'”

Today, in a press release from the Interior Department, Secretary Zinke said he worked “‘carefully” with the President on the budget proposal and praised the budget reduction as cutting “wasteful spending.”

“With this budget proposal, the Trump administration is continuing their all-out assault on our nation’s public lands,” *said Chris Saeger, Western Values Project Executive Director.* “In March, Secretary Zinke said he would fight these cuts, now he is praising the effort, claiming it will eliminate ‘wasteful spending.’ What changed? Once again Secretary Zinke is proving he is all hat and no cattle when it comes to protecting public lands.”

These deep cuts would come at a time when agencies are already underfunded and struggling to keep up with land maintenance at current budget levels. The National Park Service is facing a $12.5 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Also under threat are the U.S. Forest Service’s Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), which compensate counties that have federal lands for essential services.

While funding is decreasing, demand on our federal public lands and visitation to national parks is at an all-time high. Oil production on federal lands increased between 2006 and 2015. At the same time, our national parks hosted 330 million visitors in 2016, the third record-setting year in a row.

“These draconian cuts would leave our public lands managers with their hands tied, and would pilfer funding from state and local governments, particularly in the rural west,” *Saeger said.* “Make no mistake, this budget doesn’t eliminate ‘wasteful spending’ or reduce ‘bloated bureaucracy,’ it guts essential services and places an ever-growing burden on western communities.”

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