Ahead of Zinke Hearing, Grijalva Highlights Administration Budget’s Cuts to Public Access, Total Failure to “Balance”

Washington, D.C. – Ahead of this morning’s 9:30 a.m. hearing with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on the president’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget, Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) highlighted the budget’s total failure to balance, despite its authors’ rhetoric to the contrary, and the many ways in which it would reduce public access to public lands and services. Grijalva underscored that the overall budget’s widely mocked $2 trillion accounting error – variously identified in the press as a “hilarious accounting fraud” (Slate) and “a $2 trillion mystery” (CNBC) – fatally undermines Zinke’s repeated attempts to convince the public that “this is what a balanced budget looks like.”

Trump’s budget reduces public access to public lands in several ways, including by gutting overall agency funding and staff levels, reducing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and related land acquisition programs, cutting funding for federal grants and technical assistance to states and Tribes, and slashing fire management programs that protect millions of acres for public use. The dramatic cuts contradict Zinke’s vow following his Senate confirmation to fight the proposal and ensure that the Department’s “values” were incorporated in the budget.

More information about these cuts, including their impacts on public access to public lands, will be available at the hearing.

“This budget is the opposite of everything the Interior Department stands for,” Grijalva said today. “It treats employees as problems to be eliminated, public land as a nuisance we shouldn’t have to pay for, and the oil and gas industry as desperately needing a handout. After putting out a document like this that miscounts two trillion dollars and destroys popular public lands access programs, it’s time for this administration and its supporters to stop pretending they care about public input. Teddy Roosevelt is rolling in his grave, and I think Secretary Zinke knows it.”

As the Washington Post and others have reported, Trump’s budget proposal cuts approximately $400 million from national parks funding, approximately $370 million from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and $163 million from the U.S. Geological Survey, among other dramatic cuts. Grijalva and other Democrats at today’s hearing will press Zinke to explain why these cuts are necessary, especially when coupled with the opening of multiple public land sites for drilling.

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