On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives, followed by the U.S. Senate, passed a bill that will fund the federal government through the end of September and reduce federal agency budgets by more than $38 billion.
The deal passed the House on a bipartisan 260-167 vote, with 179 Republicans and 81 Democrats voting in favor; 59 Republicans and 108 Democrats opposed the measure. The funding bill passed the Senate on a bipartisan 81-19 vote.
President Obama is expected to sign the funding measure into law by midnight tonight in order to avert a federal shutdown.
This version of the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution (CR) maintains the elimination of all earmarks, which impacts nine state Wildlife Services (WS) programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Livestock protection programs in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota are affected.
"The $2,675,000 previously funding these earmarks supported APHIS WS activities related to predator damage management assistance in nine states," stated William Clay, WS deputy administrator, in an email to affected parties. "Our predator damage management work in these states cannot operate at current levels with this funding elimination. Therefore, beginning immediately, we will be limiting this work to whatever level of activity can be supported with non-federal funding under appropriate legal authorities."
Earlier in the week, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, Mont., said he couldn't approve the settlement proposed in March between some of the animal activist groups and the administration because not all the parties involved in the case agreed with it. Part of the argument for the settlement was that it could end litigation, but Molloy noted that was unlikely given the opposition by some to the proposed settlement.
The court decision came on the same day as Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho) announced wolves in Montana and Idaho would be taken off the endangered list under the appropriations bill now passed by Congress. With the passage of the FY 2011 CR, wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota are also no longer treated as endangered species.
Wild lands language was included in the legislation by Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho). It prohibits the Department of Interior from using taxpayer funding to carry out its Wild Lands initiative.
"Only Congress has the authority to create new land designations, and I intend to restore that authority by including this provision in the CR," stated Simpson.
A Secretarial Order, which was put out shortly before Christmas, required the Bureau of Land Management to inventory its lands for wilderness characteristics. These lands would have been designated as wild lands, which would have imposed the most restrictive land-use policies and placed severe limitations on public access, prohibited many popular forms of recreation and severely restricted job-creating and energy-producing activities.