Fed funds: More for parks, less for CUP - White House releases budget overview for Interior Department

(Note: Hello, Language Deception! Run amok, using words and phrases to trap and slay truth.)

February 8, 2005

By Jerry Spangler [email protected] 

Deseret Morning News

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Salt Lake City, Utah 84110


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Washington, D.C. - Utah's national parks and monuments should see a significant infusion of new money to upgrade facilities.

But the government is turning down the spigot of federal money going to the Central Utah Project (CUP).

Those were among the items highlighted in President Bush's 2006 budget overview for the Department of Interior released Monday in Washington, D.C.

"This budget focuses on funding essential activities and programs that fulfill Interior's core responsibilities, such as reforming Indian trust systems, protecting communities against wildland fire and conserving our national parks, refuges, waters and wildlife," Secretary of Interior Gale Norton said.

The Department of Interior budget is of significant interest to Utah because the federal government owns most of the state. The vast majority of federal land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, both entities within Interior.

Overall, the president's budget for Interior calls for the department's budget to be trimmed by $100 million, from $10.9 billion to $10.8 billion.

Some of the cuts were accomplished through eliminating certain federal programs that had outlived their usefulness, Norton said. Other money was trimmed from existing programs, like the Central Utah Project.

If the president's budget were to be adopted -- and Congress still has the ultimate word on that -- the CUP would get $34.4 million, which is down $13.3 million from the current 2005 budget enacted by Congress.

According to a budget document released by Interior, the decrease is due primarily to the transfer of budget authority from Interior to the Western Area Power Administration.

Bush's budget includes money to complete the Diamond Fork water delivery system, to continue construction on Big Sand Wash dam and to implement local projects. It also includes $397,000 for mitigation and conservation projects associated with CUP.

The National Park Service was a winner once again, seeing its proposed budget for maintenance and construction increase by $27.1 million to a total of $716.6 million. Some $3.7 billion has been spent since 2002 to improve the nation's parks.

Utah has five national parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas and a national historic site, almost all administered by the National Park Service.

The president's budget is broad, and specific details of where money would be spent were not immediately available.

The budget is certain to ruffle the feathers of conservationists because Norton called for making public lands more accessible for oil and gas development. In Utah, the future of those lands is hotly debated with environmentalists calling for wilderness protection and oil and gas companies seeking exploration leases.

The battle over oil and gas development in the Tavaputs Plateau in east-central Utah is likely to be lost in a bigger battle over exploring for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Bush wants to begin selling leases there by 2007.

"This proposal will help ensure energy supplies and sustain a strong economy to benefit all Americans," Norton said.

Norton, one of the few Cabinet members to remain for the second term, also signaled a theme common to the first Bush administration: Communities and groups that want federal money for conservation will have to pony up their own fair share of matching funds and volunteer labor.

The budget for these programs, called cost-share grants, will see an increase of $25.7 million to a total of $44.7 million.

Cost-share grants partially funded the initial two years of survey in now-famous Range Creek in central Utah.

"These programs enable our agencies to work with neighboring communities, landowners and other citizens to achieve common conservation goals," the department said in a prepared statement.

The Bush budget also calls for budget increases to promote heritage tourism and to preserve historic structures and resources. In all, the budget proposes to spend $1.3 billion for recreation programs to improve visitor services and access to recreation areas.

Programs on the chopping block included "terminating funding" for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a savings of $90 million.

Other programs that would be axed include the Wildland Rural Fire Assistance Program and the Jobs in the Woods Program.

Copyright 2005, Deseret Morning News.