Policy Blog: Big Cuts for Outdoor Recreation in Trump's “Skinny Budget”  

Despite campaign promises to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure, President Trump's initial draft budget actually proposes steep cuts to nearly every non-defense federal agency, including those most important to outdoor recreation. 

By Jessica Wahl March 22, 2017

Last week, the Trump administration released what’s known as a “skinny budget,” a spending blueprint for Congress that provides topline agency funding and priorities for FY18. In order to stay within budget caps, Trump’s proposed $54 billion increase in defense (non-discretionary) spending must be offset by a $54 billion cut in discretionary spending. (All conservation, recreation and environmental programs are considered discretionary spending).  

This budget proposal is contrary to the president’s campaign promise to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and to his call for a $1 trillion infrastructure package. With the exception of Homeland Security, Defense and Veterans Affairs, almost every federal agency will face budget cuts 

Departments key to the outdoor recreation economy are looking at devastating cuts under Trump’s proposal. They include: 

Department of the Interior—12% 

  • Cuts $1.5 billion, including $120 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund 
  • Defunds major maintenance projects and new construction on America’s parks and public lands 
  • Increases funding for park maintenance 
  • Eliminates money for National Historic Sites  
  • Increases funding for extraction on and offshore 
  • Maintains current funding levels for Bureau of Land Management 

Department of Commerce—12%

  • Cuts $250 million from NOAA coastal management programs
  • Cuts funding from BEA, which s the agency that implements the REC Act

Environmental Protection Agency—31% 

  • Eliminates 20% of the staff (3,200 jobs) 
  • Cuts funding for the implementation of the Clean Power Plan 
  • Cuts $100 million from international climate change programs  
  • Cuts funding for climate research 

Department of Agriculture—21% (fire suppression will continue to be funded at 100% of the 10-year average) 

  • Reductions to other USFS programs, as needed but not yet determined, to maintain fire-suppression funding and meet the 21% departmental budget cut. 

Cuts to various other agencies climate programs and climatechange related research, including the Department of State and NASA.  

The budget blueprint also touches on the president’s “America first” trade agenda, emphasizing domestic manufacturing and enforcement of U.S. trade laws. Without citing a specific dollar amount, the budget calls for more robust trade compliance and enforcement work at the International Trade Administration (ITA) in the Department of Commerce.  

Surprisingly, the blueprint leaves out funding for the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). That information will be released with the president’s full proposed budget in May. We can expect, however, that USTR’s budget will also reflect the president’s “America First” policy. At his Senate confirmation hearing USTR nominee, Robert Lighthizer, stated unequivocally that he is committed to that policy and that, as USTR, he will emphasize exports and enforcement of U.S. trade laws. 

The president’s “skinny” budget is just the first step in an often lengthy and controversial budget process. Congressional Democrats and Republicans have already pushed back on these deep cuts. In fact, it is unlikely the budget—as proposed—would receive the 60 senate votes it would need to overcome a filibuster by Democrats. Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Chairwoman, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), said: “The president’s budget expresses his priorities, and we will consider them, but it is the congressional budget and appropriations committees that will establish our priorities and fund them over the coming months.” 

Appropriators in the House and Senate will work to have their bills ready by April, and the president’s full proposed budget will be released in May. In the meantime, Congress needs to negotiate the remaining funding for FY17 by April 28 to avoid a government shutdown.