In this file photo, firefighters respond to the Moonstruck Fire, which was contained in early September 2021 near Lake Lowell in Canyon County. (Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management)
President Joe Biden’s budget request, released Monday, would boost funding for the Interior Department by nearly one-fifth, well above what the administration has proposed for most discretionary spending.
The president’s $5.8 trillion request to Congress for fiscal 2023 proposes a 5% increase for domestic discretionary programs. Interior would see $17.5 billion in discretionary spending, a 19% increase from the current level set in 2020.
The president’s proposal is seen as a starting point for budget negotiations, with the spending bills passed by Congress unlikely to closely resemble the request. Nonetheless, a budget expresses an administration’s priorities.
More than one-third of the total requested for Interior, $5.9 billion, would go toward climate resilience and adaptation programs.
The administration requested $375 million for climate research, including ways to reduce risks caused by the changing climate. The budget also proposes a new climate portal that would provide historical data and projections of climate impacts.
Tribal programs within Interior would receive $4.5 billion, an increase of more than $1 billion, to support public safety, social services, climate and education initiatives. That funding would cover $632 million for public safety and justice programs, including a collaboration with the Justice Department to “address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons.”
The budget request would also provide $156 million for construction at seven Bureau of Indian Education schools and $7 million for a new program meant to examine “the injustices of past Federal Indian boarding school policy.”
Firefighter pay, climate programs could see federal funding increases
The request would raise federal funding for wildland firefighter pay by more than 37% to $477 million. The spending would help ensure firefighters earn no less than $15 per hour. The $1.9 trillion infrastructure law also increased spending on wildland firefighter pay.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture would also see a $390 million boost in wildland firefighter funding under the proposal. The request also proposes a $285 million increase for forest restoration to help prevent wildfires.
The administration proposed spending $675 million on water resource programs to address ongoing drought in the West.
The request also includes funding for climate programs beyond Interior, in line with the administration’s “all-of-government” approach to the crisis.
The request includes $3.5 billion for climate programs at the Department of Homeland Security, $1.7 billion for the Department of Agriculture and $1 billion for Housing and Urban Development.
The proposal would spend $3 billion on clean energy projects, $502 million to retrofit low-income homes and $100 million for a new program to help low-income households decarbonize.
The budget would provide $100 million in grants to states and tribes to support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The proposal would spend $11 billion to help other countries finance climate resilience and clean energy projects. Biden pledged to help developing nations finance climate programs during last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Biden, who made climate a core part of his presidential campaign in 2020, did not mention climate in a one-page statement on the budget. He focused instead on efforts to reduce the federal deficit, increase police spending and send aid to Ukraine to defend against Russia’s invasion.
The budget itself did prioritize climate action, John Bowman, the managing director for government affairs at the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council said in a release.
“This budget is a call for assertive action on climate now,” he said.
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