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Washington Watch

By Living Landscape Observer February 27, 2020
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt joins President Donald Trump at a press conference announcing sweeping changes to the National Environmental Policy Act. Image: DOI

FY 2021 Trump Administration Budget Proposal

In February 2020, the Trump Administration released its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal. As in past years, the environment and the humanities fared poorly. The President’s budget contains recommendations for Congress, but ultimately it is the House and the Senate that determine the final spending bills. These must be signed by the President, however, which can lead to stand offs, such as the 2019 federal government shutdown.

So, what did the FY 2021 budget proposal contain? A few key items are listed below:

  • Elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Institute for Museum and Library Services, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
  • Severe reduction in monies for land acquisition by the Interior Department via the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • $600 million in cuts to more than 50 programs managed by the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Over $580 million in cuts to the National Park Service budget
  • Major cuts to programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at a time when its research is critical to understanding the effects of climate change

Staffing Vacancies at the National Park Service

A statement from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) highlights the leadership vacuum at the National Park Service. Key findings include:

  • No permanent National Park Service director since 2017
  • Two-thirds (10 of 15) deputy, assistant, and associate National Park Service director slots vacant or filled by an “acting” appointee
  • Numerous superintendent positions at park units across the system filled by acting appointees

A statement on the vacancies was also released by the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks

Changes Proposed to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

The Trump Administration has proposed significant changes to the implementation of NEPA. Among the many modifications, the Administration seeks to limit the type of federal actions subject to NEPA review, shorten study periods, eliminate the requirement to consider the “cumulative effects” of an action, and limit the page length of Environmental Impacts Statements (EIS) and other reports linked to the NEPA process.

For more much coverage and analysis see: a story in the Washington Post; recent congressional testimony by the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks; a story on three specific projects by E&E news; a blog post on what the proposed changes could mean for the climate from Yale Climate Connections; and a link to the Council on Environmental Quality explaining the Administration’s rationale.

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