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Tight federal lands budget released in House with new restrictions

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The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment & Related Agencies approved a spending bill for next year with some cuts in it. The committee approved an FY 15 appropriaions bill on Wednesday, July 9. The bill also includes some increases.

It includes, for instance a $470 million increase for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to help fight wildfires. All in all, the bill includes $4.1 billion, a $149 million increase over FY 14, for fighting and preventing fires on USFS and U.S. Department of the Interior lands. The bill, however, would force the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to take a slight overall funding cut, $13 million out of its $1.1 billion budget. BLM would get only $4.816 million for land acquisition.

The National Park Service (NPS) would get a slight funding increase, just $3 million of its $2.6 billion budget. But the subcommittee says it's enough to keep all parks open. The bill includes $10 million NPS can spend on activities to celebrate its centennial, but at least half the cost of any such projects would have to be paid with non-federal funds.

Overall, USFS would get the biggest increase: $85.7 million out of its $5.6 billion budget, but that includes the forest fire provisions. The bill also says that neither USFS nor BLM could close any more areas to hunting and recreational shooting unless necessary for public safety or because of extreme weather conditions.

The Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) would also suffer a slight $4 million decrease in its $1.4 billion budget. And the bill would prohibit FWS from opening any new national wildlife refuges or expanding any existing ones. The budget includes $46.865 million to manage the refuges.

The bill would end funding for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, which has been embroiled in controversy over the design of its planned memorial to the general and president supposed to go up in Washington, DC.

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