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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

House Republicans look to slash budgets for Interior Department and EPA

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams (right) and Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning (middle) address reporters at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference.
Courtesy of Boise State University.
Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams (right) and Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning (middle) address reporters at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference.

U.S. House Republicans are proposing sweeping cuts to the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other executive departments with major influence in the Mountain West. Their bill is a part of the lengthy debateover federal funding for the next fiscal year.

Overall, the bill approves more than $25 billion in spending, which is a 35% drop – or $13.4 billion – from last year. The EPA would face a 39% cut, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service would see their budgets slashed significantly.

Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, a Republican, said in a committee meeting that making these decisions was especially tough as a resident of a Western state. But the cuts are necessary, he added.

“If you're looking for a pretty bill, this is not it. This is a hard bill, and frankly, it's a necessary bill,” he said. “With the nation's debt in excess of $32 trillion and inflation at an unacceptable level, we have to do our jobs to rein in unnecessary federal spending.”

The proposed budget also takes on hot-button environmental issues, like the status of gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act, and mining and drilling leasing policies. The northern long-eared bat, for instance, would lose protections, and the bill opposes a proposed BLM rule that would put conservation projects on equal footing as other land uses like mining or grazing.

Democrats, meanwhile, say the budget cuts would slash important programs from President Joe Biden’s agenda. Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree said they would also hamper progress on climate change and prevent agencies from enforcing safety regulations.

“The cuts in this bill are so severe that even agencies that usually enjoy bipartisan support are targeted for damaging reductions,” she said. “The majority of Americans support becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and they support taking responsibility for future generations. The austere and irresponsible cuts in this bill do not align with their values.”

It’s unlikely this bill will make it through the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. The 2024 fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW 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.
Copyright 2023 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Will Walkey