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Contact: Cameron Hardy
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Thomas Provides Oversight of Interior Budget
Wyoming Senator Seeks Answers on PILT, Parks, and Grazing Concerns
 
March 2nd, 2006 - WASHINGTON – In providing oversight to the Department of Interior’s (DOI) 2007 Budget, U.S. Senator Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) sought answers in a hearing today on several key programs that directly affect Wyoming counties, land use, and national parks.

Thomas was particularly concerned with the reduction in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding.

“The proposals set out in this budget ignore the needs of public lands states. To take nearly $35 million away from PILT funding is not a step forward, but is in fact, a monumental step backward,” Thomas said.

“To continue to disregard the needs of rural areas is something that must be addressed and we’ll seek to remedy those concerns in the Senate this year. I’m concerned that the budget continues to steamroll Wyoming’s needs and those of other rural states,” he said.

Today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing dealt with a broad range of issues that affect Wyoming including issues related to energy development, public lands, and endangered species.

Grazing

The DOI budget also includes a legislative proposal to eliminate funding for range improvements on BLM land and deposit all grazing fee receipts in the Federal Treasury. This move would impact every rancher using BLM land in Wyoming.

Currently, Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) requires that $10 million of grazing fee receipts go directly to range improvements on public lands.

“The grazing proposal concerns me. We rejected the same proposal last year because it takes a toll on the grazers who help manage public lands. We need to keep some money in the kitty to ensure that Interior can manage their land and our grazing lands remain a viable resource for livestock producers,” Thomas said.

Department of Interior Secretary, Gale Norton, testified before the committee. Thomas took the opportunity to pepper Norton with questions regarding other key departments and issues that affect Wyoming, including the budget for the national parks.

“There is no other department that affects Wyoming’s way-of-life more than DOI. With so many folks’ livelihoods at stake, I’m hopeful we can work out these public lands issues to our benefit,” Thomas said.

Thomas is a senior member of the Senate Energy Committee.  

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