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7 cuts to Oregon's natural resources budget

The governor's $1.8 billion natural resources budget for 2011-13 is down .2 percent from 2009-11 with more fees and fewer services.

The governor's $1.8 billion natural resources budget for 2011-13 is down .2 percent from 2009-11 with more fees and fewer services.

Gov. John Kitzhaber released his proposed 2011-13 budget today. Natural resource program spending really wasn’t the focal point of the unveiling, but the $1.8 billion budget for natural resources represents a .2 percent cut to spending in the last biennium.

The result will be more fees for services, fewer air and water pollution controls and less grant money for land-use planning. The budget does include funding for marine reserves, ballast water monitoring for invasive species (pending approval of a bill in the next session), development of Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Beaver Creek State Natural Area and Fort Yamhill.

It also includes more federal funds for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Willamette rivers and private land access for hunters. But there are 7 key programs that spending cuts will affect:

  1. Forest Fire Protection: The governor has proposed to reduce state’s share of the cost from 50 percent to 45 percent and increasing the landowners share of funding from 50 percent to 55 percent.
  2. Food Safety: The new budget includes fee increases for wholesale and retail businesses regulated by the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Policy Area to make up for a 15 percent budget reduction for that program.
  3. State Parks: In response to changes to funding allocations dictated by Measure 76, the new budget directs fewer lottery dollars to state parks administration and proposes increased entrance fees to make up the difference. Future fee increases would be tied to the consumer price index automatically to make sure they keep up with inflation and continue funding park operations. Measure 76 requires more lottery dollars to be granted to local groups for project work, leaving less for administration.
  4. Air and Water Pollution: The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality budget for 2011-13 is down 16 percent from the previous biennium, though much of the decrease is tied to sun-setting federal stimulus money. The department will continue its core programs, but won’t be funded to do as much work on air and water pollution monitoring and control as it has in the past: “Service reductions include air quality monitoring and pollution reduction work, land quality waste management and cleanup, and water quality assessments, restoration and point source controls.”
  5. Land-use Planning: The Department of Land Conservation and Development will have less money to spend on land-use planning grants and on managing Measure 49 property-use claims. The budget also cuts a staff attorney for the Land Use Board of Appeals.
  6. Agriculture permits: The Department of Agriculture budget relies heavily on fees, many of which are slated to go up in the proposed budget: “The recommended budget includes fee increases in all four agency divisions. These include fee increases for seed dealer licenses, Confined Animal Feeding Operations, shellfish cultivation, veterinary products, pet foods, and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits.  The budget makes the animal health program entirely reliant on fees.”
  7. Water Management: The Water Resources Department budget is going up 55 percent, but that’s mostly because of a lottery revenue bond for Klamath County conservation work. There will be two new positions working on water in south central Oregon and eastern Oregon. But reductions will affect some services: “Reductions include a contract oversight position, a groundwater hydrogeologist, a water availability modeler and an information services manager.  Reductions also affect groundwater studies and services and supplies.”

BUDGET Full Budget

John Kitzhaber

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