FY19 President’s Budget Request Memo

On February 12, 2018, President Trump released his Budget request for fiscal year 2019 (FY19) appropriations for the Department of the Interior, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).

The Interior Department has prioritized three items as relayed on the DOI budget calls just after the budget release:

  1. Rebuilding infrastructure
  2. Reorganizing the department
  3. Raising revenues (from public lands activities such as oil and gas drilling, coal mining, timber extraction, grazing leases, etc.) (See “Public Lands Infrastructure Initiative” below)

Within the Service, the focus is now on hunting and fishing access, partnerships with landowners, and a shift to focusing more funding to individual refuges rather than the regional offices and headquarters.



The FY19 budget request proposes a funding level for the operations and maintenance (O&M) account for the Refuge System of $473.1 million – an $11 million decrease (2.2%) over FY18 appropriations.

Due to fixed management capability costs (between $8m and $15m each year) in real dollars, the Refuge System request is nearly $100 million less, or 17.4% down from than where they were at the highest-level funding in FY10. This means hundreds of positions will remain vacant while more are eliminated (see “Staffing” below), thousands of acres of invasives will remain unchecked and many priority public use programs will be curtailed.

Conservation planning was zeroed out, as anticipated. Unfortunately, there are still comprehensive conservation plans that remain outstanding, and they are funded out of the planning budget.

All refuges programs took a haircut: Wildlife and Habitat Management ($2.8m, a 1.2% cut), Refuge Visitor Services ($2m, a 2.7% cut), Law Enforcement ($81k, a 0.2% cut), Conservation Planning ($2.5m, a 100% cut), and Refuge Maintenance ($2.5m, a 1.6% cut).



The President has taken the position on land acquisition that “we shouldn’t acquire any new lands until we can take of what we already own.” The total LWCF recommendation was $33 million, down from the $400 million in current appropriations and even half of what the recommendation was last year.

The FWS portion of the LWCF account has taken a large hit, down from $50 million to $11.9 million, which is just enough to close out current obligations. It is noted, however, that several funds were zeroed out (stateside, Section 6, Forest Service), while the Park Service retained $9 million. The budget is rather confusing, however, as there are a number of “cancellations” of funding, which exceed the amount actually recommended to be appropriated. The $11.9 million for FWS may turn out to be, in reality, a much smaller figure.

It is possible that the House will agree with this position, but we doubt the Senate will approve such drastic cuts. See the chart below for the full funding levels:




Agency Recommendation Cancellations
Bureau of Land Management $3,392,000  (10,000,000)
National Park Service $8,788,000 ($10,000,000)
Stateside Grants $0 $0
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service $11,953,000 ($5,000,000)
Section 6 Endangered Species $0 $0
American Battlefields Protection Program (NPS) $0 $0
U.S. Forest Service $0 ($17,000,000)
Forest Legacy Program $0 ($4,000,000)
Office of Valuation Services (NPS) $9,000,000 $0
LWCF Total $33,133,000  $ (46,000,000)





Program Recommendation Total Cut
Partners for Fish and Wildlife $35.7 million 27%
State Wildlife Grants $31 million 50%
Multinational Species Conservation Fund $6 million 46%
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund $3.01 million 23%
North American Wetlands Conservation Act $33.6 million 12%
Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund $0 $53.5 million
National Wildlife Refuge Fund $0 $13 million
FWS International Affairs $6.7 million 20%
Coastal Program $6.5 million 51%



The Service is anticipating a loss of 790 positions across the Service as a result of these cuts (8,809 FTEs in FY17, 8,019 FTEs in FY19).



$15.745 million (18% cut), with $2 million permanently cancelled. FY17 enacted funding was $18.6 million. The request by refuge is:

  • Crab Orchard NWR (IL): $1 million
  • Alaska Maritime NWR (AK): $2.675 million
  • Valle de Oro (NM): $1 million
  • Midway Atoll NWR: $800k
  • Yukon Delta NWR (AK): $400k



The Administration is recommending that the Congress enact legislation similar to the Resource Protection Act, which would allow refuges to be compensated for damages knowingly caused to a refuge and modeled after similar statues for the National Parks and NOAA. NWRA has been pushing this legislation for several Congresses, and have faced opposition from multiple Senators and House Members. It is unclear whether an Administration endorsement will change their opinions of the bill.



The Administration is concerned about the deterioration of the nation’s assets on public lands, which replacement value exceeds $300 billion. This budget proposal launches the “Public Lands Infrastructure Fund”, which would help pay for repairs and improvements to parks, refuges, and Bureau of Indian Education schools. The proposal would raise as much as $18 billion over ten years through increased revenue from energy leasing and development. They are anticipating that twice that amount could be raised, with the remaining 50% going to the general treasury.

The idea is that this fund could help alleviate the NPS and NWRS backlogs.

The Department considers this increased revenue to be a top priority. As further details emerge, we will find out if the billions to be raised will be generated from increased mining, drilling, timber, or other extractive industry on refuge lands.


For questions, contact Caroline Brouwer, Director of Government Affairs.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2018/02/fy19-presidents-budget-request-memo/

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