July was a milestone month for NERRS program support. The Senate Appropriations Committee marked its bill at $25 million for NERRS Operations and $1.9 million for NERRS PAC; the House Appropriations Committee marked its bill at $23.5 million for NERRS Operations and $1.9 million for NERRS PAC. In the months to come, NERRA will focus on House and Senate appropriations conference work and request that any omnibus or appropriations bill that moves forward uses the Senate report numbers.
We are deeply grateful to our Members of Congress and the thousands of reserve staff, friends, and partners who stepped up to help make this happen. This could never have happened without you. But it’s far from over. There is quite a road between now and when the White House and Congress ultimately pass a budget.
During this time, NERRA will continue its efforts to reach out to our friends in the business community and add the name of their businesses to the growing list of those around the country that support and benefit from their local reserve.
The Trump Administration has released its full budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, FY2018. At the same time, NOAA released its detailed budget proposal, known as the Blue Book, which provides a program-by-program look at the administration’s vision for coastal, ocean, and fisheries issues.
Funding for the NERRS Operations and Procurement, Acquisition, and Construction (PAC) was completely eliminated in these proposals. Be assured, this is far from the final word on the budget and the future of our reserves. It is the starting point for the FY2018 budget process, which will include testimonies from Administrative officials, congressional hearings, and hard work on the part of subcommittees in the coming months.
The House of holding is a hearing on Thursday, 5/25/17, and will hear testimony from Department of Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross. The House has extended the deadline to May 30th for its members to make comments to fellow appropriation committee members about the President’s FY18 budget. The Senate has not yet scheduled any hearing.
To help you navigate this news, we’ve excerpted the parts of the budget relevant to our reserves:
From the budget: “Department of Commerce The Budget proposes to eliminate funding for several lower priority, and in many cases, unauthorized, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant and education programs, including Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, Coastal Zone Management Grants, the Office of Education, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. These eliminations would allow NOAA to better target remaining resources to core missions and services.”
Justification in the budget: “These grant and education programs generally support State, local, and/or industry interests, and these entities may choose to continue some of this work with their own funding. In addition, these grants often are not optimally targeted, in many instances favoring certain species or geographic areas over others or distributing funds by formula rather than directing them to programs and projects with the greatest need or potential benefit. NOAA will continue to serve as a resource and provide technical assistance as appropriate on many of the issues funded by these programs.
From the Blue Book: “National Estuarine Research Reserves System (NERRS): NOAA requests a decrease of $22,957,000 to terminate federal funding support to states for the management of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. The NERRS is a network of 29 state-managed coastal sites designated to protect and study estuarine systems. NERRS matching funds from states total approximately $6.5 million per year. Under this proposal, NOAA will continue to provide national-level system coordination and in-kind support to state governments that choose to continue operating the reserves using state funds.”
“National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) Construction: NOAA requests a decrease of $1,697,000 to eliminate the NERRS Construction and Land Acquisition Program. Reserves are publicly owned lands and onsite facilities that provide opportunities for researchers as well as the public to better understand these estuarine areas. NOAA competitively awards these funds to states for capital construction and land acquisition in or around reserve sites.”