Interior Department cuts could impact Montana

Interior Department cuts could impact Montana

Source: NBC Montana
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Christopher Salas

KALISPELL, Mont. – President Donald Trump’s proposed budget is filled with program cuts. Savings in discretionary spending would be used to fund military expansion and Homeland Security.

Among the program cuts is $1.5 billion from the Department of the Interior, including $120 million from programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The budget says land acquisition programs are “lower priority activities.”

Montana has received grants through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Some notables include:

Herron Park acquisition in Kalispell, with more $120,000 in program grants.
Missoula’s bike way system was partially funded with more than $20,000.
Sundance Springs Park in Bozeman was acquired, partially through a $58,000 grant.
Jeff and Sandy Emory say places like Herron Park have become their go-to spot to stay in shape.

“It’s easy walking out here,” said Jeff Emory . “You can choose whether you want to stay on the level trails or go into the higher inclines. It’s gives you a great variety.”

The Trust For Public Lands says the proposed budget would impact people like the Emorys, who enjoy public lands.

“It really shows a complete disregard for one of the most popular programs,” according to trust director Dick Dolan. “It’s really going to harm our ability to have access to close to home recreation.”

Despite worries about access to public lands, others we talked to are pleased to see government spending reduced.

“We can’t afford it anymore. We’re already eating cornbread,” Kalispell resident Russell DiPietro said.

We asked for comment from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The call went unanswered. However, the Interior Department website has the following statement:

“America’s public lands are our national treasures and the President’s budget sends a strong signal that we will protect and responsibly manage these vast areas of our country “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people’,” Secretary Zinke said. “Before serving in government, I served on the front lines for 23 years as a military officer. I can say for certain that this budget allows the Interior Department to meet our core mission and also prioritizes the safety and security of the American people. From supporting tribal sovereignty and self-determination across Indian country to investing more than $1 billion in safe and reliable water management in the western U.S., to budgeting for wildland fire preparedness and suppression, and streamlining access to the energy resources America needs, this budget enables the Department to meet its core mission and prioritizes programs that will put Americans’ security first.”

The Emorys believe Zinke “has (their) back.”

“He’s a local boy. I think he’ll look out for us,” Jeff Emory said.

All together the Department of the Interior will be cut by about 12 percent in 2018