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House Appropriations Approves Slight Increase for Interior

by CBB Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - June 27, 2003

The House Appropriations Committee this week approved a $19.6 billion interior spending bill for Fiscal Year 2004 that includes money for culvert removal and other fish passage improvements on federal land, mass marking of hatchery fish, Elwha river dam removal and various other Northwest salmon restoration programs.

In Fiscal Year 2003, which ends Sept. 30, Congress and the Administration approved $19.4 billion for interior spending.

The bill, which the House will take up next month, would grow the Fish and Wildlife Service's budget for endangered species listing programs, including critical habitat designations, which were halted recently when the agency ran out of money. The bill provides a $3.3 million increase sought by President Bush for next fiscal year, bringing the total to $12.3 million. Whether to provide supplemental funding to address the current year's problem won't be decided until later this summer.

Environmental groups say more money is needed.

"The administration has repeatedly failed to ask for the funds needed to protect more than 250 species awaiting protection under the Endangered Species Act and to address the backlog of needed critical habitat designations, said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. The $12 million total provided for those activities does not come close to addressing a $153 million backlog, he said.

Another controversy in the bill is a provision denying funding to the Klamath Fishery Management Council, a federal advisory group that includes representatives from commercial and recreational ocean and river fishermen, river tribes, and state and federal agencies. Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif., asked the committee to defund the council over its criticism of water use by farmers in the upper Klamath Basin of California and Oregon.

An effort by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., to strike the prohibition was defeated by voice vote during the committee's meeting on Wednesday. California Republicans said the council was out of line in publicly blaming federal water use by Klamath Basin farmers last year for a massive salmon kill in the lower Klamath River.

Overall, the FWS budget for endangered species programs would be $134.5 million in FY04, a $2.7 million increase over the current year.

In recovery programs, the House bill earmarks $500,000 for wolf monitoring in Idaho; $300,000 for conservation of Idaho sage grouse; $150,000 for Kootenai River burbot; $50,000 for slickspot peppergrass; and $2 million for Pacific salmon grants to be administered through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

In habitat conservation, $1.4 million was included for Washington state fisheries enhancement groups and $1.5 million for Walla Walla Basin fish passage and salmon recovery.

For national fish hatcheries, the committee provided $59 million, slightly more than Bush requested. Of that, $1.6 million is slated for Northwest hatcheries to purchase mass-marking machines and $3 million for Washington state hatchery reform.

The interior appropriations measure is one of various annual spending bills for departments of the federal government that implement the Columbia Basin salmon recovery plan and conduct other Northwest salmon programs. The House committee has not yet drafted its bills for the Commerce Department and energy and water programs.

In his budget for fiscal year 2004, Bush asked for less spending by federal agencies on Columbia Basin salmon recovery than the $506 million for FY03. But it still was about $50 million more than Congress approved for FY03.

Bush's budget office no longer provides a compilation summary of Columbia Basin salmon spending by 10 different federal agencies, so the exact total is difficult to determine.

Environmental and fishing groups have criticized the administration and Congress for providing what they say is only about half the funding needed each year to implement the 2000 salmon recovery plan and BiOp.

The House interior bill includes $11 million for the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and other agencies to repair culverts that block fish passage Northwest streams and rivers. The program was launched last year by committee member Norm Dicks, D-Wash.

"Removing these barriers that prevent salmon from swimming upstream to spawn is a critical piece of our overall strategy to boost the survival of these threatened and endangered species," Dicks said.

The bill also continues funds for another initiative begun by Dicks last year to require all Northwest hatchery salmon to be marked for easy identification by fishermen. The clipping of the adipose fin helps in conducting selective catches of salmon and preventing threatened and endangered species from being taken and harmed.

The FY03 spending bill mandated the complete marking of hatchery-raised salmon stocks in the Northwest through the use of specially developed automated machinery for the purpose .

The FY04 bill contains $2.5 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs to purchase mass-marking machines and clip the fins of all salmon from federal hatcheries, as well as assistance and instructions to the states of Oregon and Washington for similar work at state hatcheries.

In related national programs, the committee approved Bush's request to increase the cooperative endangered species conservation fund by $6.1 million to $86.6 million. The fund provides grants to states for recovery on non-federal lands and for acquisition of non-federal habitat.

The bill continues a $40 million appropriation from last year for the landowner incentive program, which is aimed at restoring and protecting privately owned habitat for listed and candidate species.

A $10.4 million boost was given to the state and tribal wildlife grant program, raising its budget to $75 million.

The National Park Service would receive $12.9 million for the Elwha River salmon restoration project, including removal of two small dams.

The latest installment will keep the project on schedule and will go for engineering work related to the removal of the dams, replacement of municipal water supply and restoration of river habitat, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said.

"Because much of the Elwha has been protected by the Olympic National Park boundaries for the past 65 years, it offers great potential for restoring a robust salmon fishery and a healthy new spawning area," Dicks said.

CBB Staff
House Appropriations Approves Slight Increase for Interior
Columbia Basin Bulletin, June 27, 2003

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