Influencing River Appropriations

For wild and scenic rivers designated through legislation, their protection doesn’t stop at designation. Advocacy groups are playing an increasingly important role in influencing appropriations–annual government funding–allocated to maintain the protections for which rivers were originally designated. Not only does advocating for adequate appropriations ensure that your river remains protected to standard, but it can increase the success of future designation campaigns.

(It is important to NOTE that in recent designation proposals, agencies pushed back against designation on grounds of inadequate funding available for staffing and comprehensive river management plan development following designation.)

Appropriations Process Overview

Each year, river management agencies craft budgets detailing their anticipated costs for land and river management. These budgets are prepared during the summer months and released in December for the following fiscal year, which begins on October 1. Collectively, the agency budgets become what is called the President’s Budget. Following the release of the President’s Budget, the Senate and House of Representatives make adjustments (sometimes minor, sometimes major) to the President’s Budget, which become their respective legislative budgets. Within their respective Appropriations Committees, both the Senate and the House have Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittees, which are the bodies that handle most river- and land-related funding topics. Through complex negotiations that take place each winter and spring, the Senate and House come to agreement on an annual budget to fund government, which becomes law. Presently, land and river management costs are, more often than not, lumped together in agency and congressional budgets and are not easily parsable. 

Ways to Influence Appropriations

Influencing the appropriations process includes the taking of thoughtful small steps towards an end goal combined with strategic relationship development. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Coalition is advancing the following agenda regarding river appropriations:

  • Working with one agency at a time to research and understand agency-specific river budgeting in more detail, beginning with the Forest Service
  • Working to achieve language changes to budget categories to include river-specific wording
  • Forging relationships with key agency and OMB budget personnel
  • Assessing allies among Coalition members on House and Senate Appropriations Committees to begin congressional outreach
  • Cultivating co-sponsors for an annual future Dear Colleague letter requesting language changes and budgetary support for river protection