Appropriations Act includes wins for Western Governors in wildfire funding, rural broadband, state authority over water

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.J. Res. 31) includes a number of significant victories for Western Governors. The measure comprises 7 of the 12 appropriations measures Congress considers annually and finances government operations for nine Departments and myriad federal agencies through FY 2019.

Several provisions in the Act have been WGA priorities and issues that the Governors that have been actively engaged in. Highlights include:

Wildfire Management: The bill provides nearly $4 billion between the Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Agriculture (USDA) for wildfire management, providing fire suppression funding at the 10-year average and an additional $500 million in appropriations (a $113 million increase above FY18). This funding does not incorporate the fire borrowing fix the Governors achieved in the FY18 omnibus, which will not take effect until FY20.

State Authority Over Water Resources: The measure contains report language reminding “(DOI) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) of states’ jurisdiction over water law." The report additionally notes that the agencies must follow "all applicable laws ... when considering a request for a permit or permit renewal.” This reflects WGA Policy Resolution 2018-12, Water Quality in the West, which states: “The federal government should not develop a groundwater quality strategy ... (and) must recognize and respect state primacy, reflect a true state-federal partnership, and comply with current federal statutory authorities.”

State Wildlife Data: For the sixth year in a row, report language directs DOI and the USFS to “fully utilize State fish and wildlife data and analyses as a primary source to inform land use, planning, and related natural resource decisions.” This language has been advocated exclusively by WGA, and reflects the Governors’ position in Policy Resolution 2017-08, State Wildlife Science, Data and Analysis.

State-Federal Land Management Coordination: Funding for USFS State and Private Forestry received $329 million, $6 million more than FY18 and $163 million above the President’s request. Adequate funding is integral to federal-state cross-boundary cooperation, as noted in the Western Governors’ National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative Special Report.

Rural Broadband: The measure includes $550 million for USDA’s ReConnect broadband deployment program. WGA Policy Resolution 2017-09, Western Agriculture, states: “Western Governors support the continued efforts of the Rural Utilities Service to provide financial assistance for… broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas.”

National Parks Deferred Maintenance: The bill contains a general program increase of $127 million to address longstanding National Park Service deferred maintenance and major construction projects. WGA Policy Resolution 2016-10, National Parks and the West, emphasizes the importance of national parks to western economies, culture and history.

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