Interior Dept. Cuts Would Hurt Economy, New Secretary Says

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Monday blasted a House Republican bill that would cut environmental and wildlife spending, saying it would have devastating effects on her department and, subsequently, the economy.

"[Funding] reductions are shortsighted and could have measurable economic consequences," Jewell said, speaking to reporters on a conference call. The House appropriations measure for Interior programs and the environment would cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department by 19 percent. Interior, Jewell said, contributed $371 billion and 2.3 million jobs to the U.S. economy in 2012.

The Republican budget "zeroed out" the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a move that Jewell said could exacerbate problems with oil and gas drilling. She warned that the cuts would also stall energy development on Interior Department land, threaten education programs, and limit conservation efforts.

"[The GOP budget] threatens to undo our former progress on everything from energy development to conservation," Jewell said. "Now is not the time to make heavy-handed cuts." Jewell called for a more balanced approach to preserve essential services while still finding spending reductions. "There's a way to find meaningful savings in our budget while still supporting our mission," she said.

Jewell defended her department's fiscal status as "one of the few government agencies that actually takes in more money that it spends," calling it "an outstanding investment for the American taxpayer." The department also released a map showing its economic contributions state-by-state.

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