Last week, the Biden administration unveiled its budget plan for managing federal public lands, and it contains big funding increases that reflect the administration's priorities around conservation and climate change.
Biden's budget requests $17.4 billion – a 16% hike – for the Interior Department, including a tripling in spending to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells and abandoned mines. The proposal for the USDA, which houses the Forest Service, prioritizes wildfire mitigation and includes $1.7 billion for "high-priority hazardous fuels and forest resilience projects," a $476 million increase.
The administration also seeks $4 billion to fund a range of Interior tribal programs, including for education and clean energy, which would represent a $600 million boost.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement that the funding request "provides much-needed resources to tribal nations, prioritizes racial justice and equity, and invests in healthy lands, waters, and a clean energy economy that will create good-paying jobs."
The budget also begins laying out how the Biden administration intends to achieve its ambitious "30x30" goal, according to Jesse Prentice-Dunn with the environmental nonprofit Center for Western Priorities.
"Around the West, we're really seeing the impact of climate change and the crunch of development," Prentice-Dunn said. "We're losing a football field worth of natural area every 30 seconds. And so scientists tell us that, for the benefit of nature, for our communities, we need to protect 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030."
In pursuit of that goal, the budget requests $200 million for "science-based conservation to align management with the nation's natural resources with America's climate, biodiversity, and clean energy needs."
It's important to note that the budget plan is more like a wishlist to Congress. That body is in charge of allocating funds to agencies and often makes significant changes to the president's budget plan before passing it.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.