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Innovative Outdoor Recreation Priorities within the President’s Budget

The Biden Administration released the President's FY 2024 Budget Request last week, which included $1.7 trillion in discretionary spending and is projected to reduce deficits by $2.9 trillion over the next ten years. Last week’s “skinny budget” pulled highlights from each agency, followed by departments releasing their more detailed budget justifications this week.

As a reminder, the President’s Budget is simply a recommendation to Congress on how this fiscal year’s spending bills should be formed. With a Republican-controlled House and a slim Democratic majority in the Senate, the Biden Administration is unlikely to get many of their recommendations included in this proposed budget.

That being said, outdoor recreation policy and funding continues to hold bipartisan support in both chambers. Over the next few months, committees will host leadership from each agency to explain budget priorities and defend these top-line requests. We are likely to see the Biden Administration continuously mention these novel ideas listed below that are included for the first time in this year’s President’s Budget.

Creates a Youth Coordinator Position. The Department of Interior requests funding for a DOI-wide Youth Coordinator to enhance the department’s participation with youth corps programs across the country. DOI is proposing that that this position - authorized within the John Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act - will work across DOI to facilitate further participation in youth training partnerships. The budget also recommends changes within the FY24 appropriations bills to “allow cost-sharing waivers to expand the use of youth corps partnerships in resource conservation and restoration work.”

Expands LWCF to include Tribal Lands. Through a partnership between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Interior, the Biden Administration proposes $12 million within the Land and Water Conservation Fund for a new Tribal LWCF Land Acquisition program. According to the Administration, this program will “enable Tribes to directly participate in the LWCF for the first time to acquire lands for the purposes of natural and cultural resources conservation and recreation access.” If authorized, BIA would work with Tribes to establish eligibility.

Funds EV Charging Stations within National Forests. The Forest Service recommends $60 million for “installation of charging stations and related infrastructure to make national forests more accessible to visitors operating zero emission vehicles.” The outdoor recreation community has been supportive of increased access to charging stations for years, and the budget requests the resources needed for this additional clean infrastructure.

Increases Funding for Local Parks Program. The budget request proposes increased funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program, a federal program within LWCF that directs funding to local parks in underserved communities. This is a $10 million increase from FY23 and shows support for a program that still needs to be codified through the Outdoors For All Act.

Focuses Wildfire Solutions on Workforce. The President’s Budget, while directing significantly higher funding for wildfire management, establishes new priorities for the wildland fire management workforce through increased pay for firefighters. This includes a new special base rate salary table for wildland firefighters and new pay categories for additional compensation.

Proposes Legislative Adjustments to Western Water. Most of the Administration’s proposal on western water directs Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding towards technical assistance, projects, and local stakeholders. However, the President’s FY24 Budget also recommends legislation to address Indian water rights. Specifically, the budget proposes authorizing language that would “provide an additional $2.5 billion in mandatory funding to support Indian Water Rights Settlement implementation actions for both existing and future settlements, as well as a $340 million proposal to address the ongoing operation, maintenance, and repair requirements funded by the Bureau of Reclamation under four enacted Indian water rights settlements.” This would build on the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund that was established through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.


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