The Office of Management and Budget has proposed that the Interior Department consider getting rid of some new national parks or recreation areas as a cost-cutting measure, an idea that set off a loud bipartisan uproar in Congress when Interior Secretary James G. Watt first floated it last year and one that Watt has since disavowed.
The proposal, part of budget director David A. Stockman's campaign to squeeze domestic spending throughout government agencies, was included in a package of fiscal directives recently forwarded to Interior.
The directives, many of which Interior is expected to appeal, call on the agency to slash $700 million from its $4.9 billion budget request. The proposals are expected to anger almost every constituency affected by the agency, from ranchers to environmentalists to western governors.
They include a freeze on additions to the national park and wildlife refuge systems, abolition of an Indian scholarship program that enabled 17,000 students to attend college last year, a moratorium on new contracts for several dam and irrigation projects in the West and reduced grants to states for enforcing strip mining regulations.
In another development, further details of OMB's instructions to the Environmental Protection Agency show the budget agency calling for dramatic cuts in federal grants to state agencies that police industrial air and water pollution, a 30 percent reduction from the current congressionally approved level of $231.1 million.
The OMB instructions to Interior, which were obtained by The Washington Post, do not cite specific parks that Interior should consider eliminating.
The document proposes creation of a commission of policymakers from Interior and the Agriculture Department and private citizens to study "the issue of deauthorization" of new parks or recreation areas whose boundaries have been designated by Congress, but in which large tracts of land remain to be purchased.
Interior has estimated that it could cost up to $2 billion to complete these purchases, and the OMB document contends that some of the new parks "do not contain resources of outstanding national importance, but would be costly to acquire and maintain," an assessment heatedly disputed by environmental groups and many congressmen.
Most new park units are in urban areas, such as Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, Cuyahoga in Ohio, Chattahoochee outside Atlanta, Gateway in New York and the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area near Los Angeles.
Interior spokesman Douglas Baldwin yesterday declined to reveal the agency's reaction to the budget directives, but stressed that "deauthorization of parks and so-called park hit lists are not part of Watt's program. This will not be part of the final budget when it emerges."
He also predicted that the Indian scholarship program would survive in the 1984 budget.
"This is just one knot in a long thread leading to a budget," Baldwin said. "There are going to be many other knots and the last knot has yet to be tied."
OMB also called on Interior to propose legislation to raise grazing fees on public lands to the same level charged in the private market, which could double or triple historically low rates paid by some western ranchers.
A wide variety of other fee hikes was proposed, including fees charged for services in national parks and a doubling in the price of a duck stamp from $7.50 to $15, which is required for hunting migratory waterfowl.
The budget agency also sharply reduced Watt's original optimistic predictions for how much money his offshore oil development plan would generate. Compared with Watt's early forecast of $18 billion in 1983, OMB predicted $11.8 million in 1984.
Spokesmen for environmental groups and Indian tribes expressed the angriest reaction to the OMB directives. Ron Tipton of the Wilderness Society denounced them as "a continuation of the effort by this administration to use the budget to make policy decisions, to just get the federal government out of wherever the Reagan administration doesn't want it to be."
OMB called on Interior to cut funds for virtually all Indian programs -- legal assistance, education, child welfare, natural resource development and trust responsibilities to tribes an approach denounced by Suzan Harjo of the Native American Rights Fund as "an atrocity."
In its directives to EPA, the budget office proposed drastic cuts in pollution control grants to state governments from $54.2 million to $20 million in clean water programs and from $84.7 million to $65.6 million in clean air funds.
These proposals are in line with recent calls from EPA Administrator Anne M. Gorsuch for the elimination of these grants.