Interior Dept.’s budget would increase to $11.7 billion


The Washington Monument is seen in an undated U.S. Department of Interior photo taken from a National Park Service helicopter. (Diana Bowen/The National Park Service/Reuters).

Updated 4:51 p.m.

President Obama requested $11.7 billion for the Interior Department in fiscal 2015, a slight increase from the year before.

The spotlight will be on the $1 billion designated for the president’s climate resilience plan, for research into the impacts of climate change, a touchy partisan subject in Congress.

As it ramps up for the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service in 2016, Interior wants $40 million for staff and park operations, counting on increased visitation.

Another $3 million was requested to help the Fish and Wildlife Service tackle a White House priority, illegal trafficking of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.

The budget also provides more money for ecological sustainability of waterways such as the Chesapeake Bay — currently under a strict pollution diet enforced by six bay states and the Environmental Protection Agency — and the Everglades National Park.

Finally, as western lands dry and wildfires burn bigger in an era of global warming, Interior wants a larger emergency fund to fight fires that burn out of control, such as last year’s monster Rim Fire in Yosemite. In past years, Interior and its firefighting partner, the Agriculture Department, were forced to switch tens of millions of dollars from other program budgets when they burned through their budgets to fight more fires than expected. Some of those funds, Interior’s deputy secretary said, were for programs meant to stop the fires from starting.

Correction: Earlier versions of this story misstated the percentage increase that the 2015 budget proposal represents.

Darryl Fears has worked at The Washington Post for more than a decade, mostly as a reporter on the National staff. He currently covers the environment, focusing on the Chesapeake Bay and issues affecting wildlife.
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