The Washington Post

Department of Interior would see gains under Obama’s budget

President Obama’s proposed budget for the Department of Interior would add muscle to controversial initiatives including a $13 million increase in funding for the U.S. Geological Survey to enhance preparations for climate change and enable water and wildlife managers to adapt to the effects of warming, such as sea-level rise.

In addition, the spending plan would provide more funding for what has become a pressing issue – crime on the nation’s most violent Indian reservations, where rape is pervasive.

Outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the president’s $12 billion budget proposal would help get the agency “out of a ditch” created by the sequester.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, center. (Andrew Mangum). Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, center. (Andrew Mangum).

Salazar prefaced his remarks about the budget’s benefits by saying previous cuts had hampered the agency’s ability to issue ocean-drilling permits, to assist visitors at national parks and to police the parks. Visitor centers at numerous parks are scheduled to close under the sequester, and members of the parks police force must take furloughs of nearly two weeks before Oct. 1.

“It’s a painful time” leading to “tough decisions,” said Salazar, who announced his resignation in January.

The proposed budget will focus funding on developing renewable energy projects and exploration of conventional energy resources. It also pushes for water development in the parched West, calling for $22.5 million to find fresh water sources to meet demand.

The $58 million for climate change preparedness was increased to $71 million, and $800 million would be invested in improved education for Native American school children.

About $18 million would be contributed to a federal pool of money for research on the impacts of natural gas hydraulic fracturing, led by the EPA.

Interior’s funding would represent only 1 percent of the president’s total budget proposal, according to officials from the agency.

Officials said they have offset budget gains with $217 million in cuts to administrative costs such as travel, and streamlining technology. The agency said it has also called for a repeal of incentives that benefit the oil and gas industry.

“We’re proud of the president’s budget. It is what it will take to get us out of a ditch and on the right track,” Salazar said.

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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