Environmental Issues > U.S. Law & Policy Main Page > All U.S. Law & Policy Documents

Contents page

Chapter 3
Public Lands

The difference in environmental legacy between the Clinton administration and the 106th Congress is nowhere more pronounced than in the protection of our most treasured public lands and resources. President Clinton provided permanent protections for threatened lands and waters across the country by designating 18 new national monuments. His actions will ensure that among other resources, 3,000 year old Sequoia trees (the Giant Sequoia National Monument), hundreds of miles of the Pacific coastline (California Coastal National Monument), and millions of acres of beautiful landscapes will be preserved from destructive development, logging, mining, and grazing. The Clinton administration took another vitally important step in public lands protection when it announced the final rule to protect nearly 60 million acres of undeveloped roadless areas in national forests, including the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

But on Capitol Hill, the 106th Congress made much more modest progress to protect our public lands. On a high note, Senate Environment Committee Chairman Robert Smith (R-N.J.) managed to get a $7 billion Everglades Restoration bill out of his committee, heralding its eventual enactment. Although the House passed a landmark bill (H.R. 701) that would allocate nearly $3 billion each year in funding for land and water conservation programs, this bill ran aground in the Senate and contained little-known provisions that would damage ecologically sensitive coastal areas and encourage offshore oil drilling. With the demise of H.R. 701, the Clinton administration and the House Appropriations Committee agreed to provide approximately $1 to $2 billion per year for six years in conservation-related funding through the appropriations process.

Other than this funding, most other public lands bills that passed were either damaging to the environment or had very limited environmental benefits. The 106th Congress also missed the opportunity to pass a bill to protect Utah's unique red rock wilderness and to ban oil and gas drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Continuing a trend that began in the 104th Congress, the 106th Congress sanctioned back door attacks on public lands by attaching almost 20 riders that undermine public lands protections to must-pass appropriations bills (See Appendix A). Faced with a Clinton administration that was eager to secure protection of our public lands, some members of Congress introduced legislation and tried to attach riders that would undermine these executive actions.


"A bill to designate a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness"
S. 867, Sen. William Roth (R-Del.)
Status: Referred to the Environment and Public Works Committee
Sen. Roth introduced legislation (S. 867) that would preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) by designating it as a protected wilderness area. Environmentalists enthusiastically support this bill, which protects ANWR from oil and gas development. However, powerful committee chairmen - such as Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) - want to open the refuge to drilling. In the end, this bill never made it out of committee despite the support of 28 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.

"Morris K. Udall Wilderness Act of 1997"
H.R. 1239, Rep. Bruce Vento (D-Minn.)
Status: Referred to the House Resources Committee
Introduced by Rep. Vento, H.R. 1239 would also designate ANWR as a wilderness area, making it part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Although this bill was cosponsored by 172 members of the House and was strongly support by the environmental community, no congressional action was taken on it during the 106th Congress.


Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) used rising gas prices as an excuse to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas development. These senators together have received more than $300,000 in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies, and the state itself stands to profit substantially from new oil and gas drilling revenues in their state. Sens. Murkowski and Stevens have led a short-sighted effort to allow drilling in the refuge which is pristine wilderness and represents only five percent of the Arctic Slope. This 1.5 million acre coastal plain - often called "America's Serengeti " for its similarity to Africa's wildlife-rich plain - is America's premier birthing and nursing ground for Arctic wildlife -- including polar bears, grizzlies, wolves, golden eagles, snowy owls and a migrating herd of 130,000 caribou. Oil drilling would forever sacrifice this wilderness and would not appease the United States' long-term appetite for energy. As Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) stated, "Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will have absolutely no impact on gas prices, now or in the foreseeable future."

Budget Resolution, S. Con. Res. 101
Status: Damaging provision that assumed oil revenues from drilling in ANWR rejected during conference
One provision in the Senate version of the FY 2001 Budget Resolution would have assumed revenues from oil drilling in ANWR in the budget calculations. During debate on the Senate floor on April 6, 2000, Sen. William Roth (R-Del.) offered an amendment (S. Amdt. 2955) to modify this provision so that it would not encourage further oil exploration by including oil drilling revenues. Unfortunately, Sen. Roth's amendment was tabled by a vote of 51-49, allowing this provision to stay in the budget resolution. However, during the budget negotiations between the House and the Senate, 18 members of the House sent a letter to Finance Committee Chairman Kasich (R-Ohio) expressing their strong opposition to oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Refuge. Faced with strong opposition from both House and Senate members, the conference committee removed this provision from the bill.

"National Energy Security Act of 2000"
S. 2557, Sens. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Trent Lott(R-Miss.)
Status: Brought directly to the Senate floor. No final action taken.
Introduced by Sens. Lott and Murkowski, S. 2557 not only would mandate oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge but would roll back environmental protections and offer a range of tax breaks and subsidies for the oil, coal and nuclear industries. This bill went straight to the Senate floor for consideration, but with only seven cosponsors it failed to garner enough support to pass.

The Republican energy plan, the "National Energy Security Act of 2000," which was introduced by Sens Murkowski and Majority Leader Lott would allow oil drilling across the Refuge's entire 1.5 million acre coastal plain. Estimates vary on how much oil lays under the Refuge, which could be as little as a six-month supply; at even the most generous estimates the supply would not be enough to make a dent in the world price of oil, which determines the price in the U.S.. Despite this, in the wake of national gas price spikes, Murkowski, Stevens, and Lott proposed to attach the S. 2557 as a rider to the FY 2001 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill, and again the Republican leadership brought the bill to the Senate floor for debate just days before the end of the second session. Opposition to drilling in ANWR from Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), William Roth (R-Del.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) forced Sen. Murkowski and Majority Leader Lott to back down. S. 2557 did not pass this session.

"Arctic Coastal Plain Domestic Energy Security Act of 2000"
S. 2214, Sen. Frank Murkowsk (R-Alaska), H.R. 2250, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)
Status: Referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Introduced by Sen. Murkowski and Rep. Young in their respective chambers, this legislation would allow oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Refuge coastal plain. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Sen. Murkowski, held a hearing on S. 2214, but the bill never garnered enough support to pass out of committee. H.R. 2250 was referred to the House Resources Committee, but no congressional action was taken.


In the midst of repeat attacks on our environment throughout the 106th Congress, Americans applauded the president for protecting some of our nation's most magnificent landmarks. Utilizing the powers vested in him by the Antiquities Act of 1906, President Clinton designated millions of acres of vulnerable public lands as national monuments - forever protecting them from resource exploitation and development.

During his administration, President Clinton designated 19 new national monuments, and expanded three existing monuments, covering millions of acres of lands and waters across the nation. He protected more than 1 million acres, a largely undisturbed wilderness area with some of the most dramatic landscapes in the country, next to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The president also designated the Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona, which includes 72,500 acres of a desert plateau rich in high-desert flora and fauna and numerous archeological sites, and the Giant Sequoia National Monument, protecting majestic 3,000 year old redwoods and rare wildlife species in one of the last remaining old growth ecosystems in the country. The president also expanded the Pinnacles National Monument in California to provide greater protections for the areas unique rock formations. The president also proclaimed 840 miles of the California coastline a national monument, protecting an important habitat for the recovery of sea lion, seal, otter, and sea bird populations.

In June of 2000, President Clinton designated four more monuments that protect prime spawning ground for salmon in Washington state, high desert areas and countless archeological sites in Colorado, thousands of acres of forest in Oregon, and one of the world's largest stands of ironwood trees in Arizona. And before leaving office in January 2001, President Clinton declared seven new monuments, and expanded one existing monument on 30,000 acres of coral reefs in and around St. John and Buck Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also designated two historic fortresses on Governor's Island as national monuments, opening the island to the public for the first time.


National Monuments Riders
Rep. James Hansen (R-Utah) and Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.)
Status: Rejected by the House and Senate by floor votes
Efforts to weaken the president's authority to designate national monuments were soundly defeated during consideration of the Interior funding bill in both houses of Congress. On the House side, Rep. Hansen authored a rider that would have prohibited funding for all new monuments designated since 1999 - including the Giant Sequoia National Monument. On the House floor, Rep. Earl Blumenaeur (D-Ore.) said, "I think it would be a tragedy for this House to use this back-door attempt to try and take away a power to have disastrous consequences on lands that belong to the American public." After a contentious floor debate in September, the House approved an amendment offered by Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.) by a vote of 243-177 that removed this rider from the bill.

During consideration of the Interior bill on the Senate floor, Sen. Nickles also offered a rider that would have stripped the president's authority under the Antiquities Act to designate new monuments, but it was defeated (49-50) after Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.), Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) and Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) crossed party lines to oppose it.

Grazing Rider
Sponsor: Sen. Peter Domenici (R-N.M.)
Status: Enacted on 10/11/00 as part of H.R. 4578, the FY 2001 Interior Appropriations bill (Pub. L. No. 106-291)
For the sixth year in a row, a rider was included in the Interior Appropriations bill (Sec. 116) that allows grazing on public lands to continue without environmental review. Authored by Sen. Domenici, this rider allows Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal agencies to extend indefinitely grazing permits that expire or are transferred in the coming fiscal year without reviews required under environmental statutes, such as NEPA and the Endangered Species Act. Furthermore, while this rider will allow ranchers to challenge the grazing permitting process, it does nothing to improve the public's ability to challenge grazing permits - or to force the Interior Department to litigate - even when public resources are being damaged. During negotiations on the FY 2000 Interior Appropriations bill, Sen. Domenici agreed with White House officials that he would not include this rider in the FY 2001 appropriations bills, but he failed to honor this promise.

During consideration of FY 2001 Interior bill, Sen. Durbin (D-Ill.) offered an amendment to strike the rider from the bill, but was defeated by a vote of 38-62. As Sen. Durbin noted on the Senate floor, "[T]he net effect ... [is] that we allow any bad actors (ranchers) who are destroying the environment on our land, our public land, to continue under the old terms and conditions and not face changes that would be in place"

Hardrock Mining Rider
Sponsors: Sens. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Status: Modified successfully in the FY 2001 Interior Appropriations conference committee
The nation's largest toxic polluter - hardrock mining - is governed by a law that has not been reformed since its original enactment in 1872. The Mining Law of 1872 gives the mining industry special rights, such as an exemption from having to pay mining royalties and the option of purchasing land at below market prices. Furthermore, federal land managers have little authority to deny permits for new mines and there are paltry few environmental standards for mines on federal lands. Throughout the years, mining companies have abandoned heavily polluted mine sites and left taxpayers with the bills for cleanup.

The 3809 regulations, so-named because they are located in the code of federal regulations at 43 CFR 3809, provide the only federal environmental oversight specifically for hardrock mining on public lands managed by the Department of Interior. The current 3809 regulations, adopted by former Secretary of Interior James Watt, do not address contamination from huge open-pit mining and the widespread use of toxic chemicals in the open environment. Since their adoption, the current 3809 regulations have left taxpayers potentially liable for cleanup costs that often exceed $1 billion.

Year in and year out, some western members of Congress have tried to stop the BLM from enacting stronger hardrock mining regulations on public lands by attaching riders to appropriations bills. Last year, these members of Congress agreed to a bipartisan compromise provision, which was attached to the FY 2000 Omnibus Appropriations bill, that would allow BLM to enact stronger environmental regulations as long as they are not inconsistent with a 1999 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study. However, in fiscal 2001, Congress failed to honor this agreement, and Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried to attach a provision to the Agriculture spending bill that would block these stronger rules. As a result of this rider, the BLM would have been prevented from improving taxpayer protection from bankrupt mining companies, denying mine proposals in environmentally or culturally sensitive areas, or establishing strong environmental performance standards.

During debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) tried, but failed by a vote of 56-36, to improve the rider. The rider later was dropped from the Agriculture bill but added to the Interior bill. During Interior bill negotiations, the Clinton administration and Sen. Reid (D-NV) agreed on a compromise that honored the agreement made in FY 2000, allowing rules to be issued as long as they are consistent with the NAS study.

Snowmobiles in National Parks Rider
Sponsor: Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.)
Status: Enacted on 12/21/00 as part of H.R. 4577, the FY 2001 Omnibus Appropriations bill (Pub. L. No. 106-554)
The National Park Service (NPS) announced in April of 2000 that it would begin enforcing limits on the use of snowmobiles in National Parks and even ban them in some areas. Snowmobiles cause damage to our national parks through noise, emissions, and wildlife disruption, all of which led the NPS to ban snowmobiles in the most heavily impacted areas.

Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) proposed a rider to the FY 2001 Interior Appropriations bill that would have prevented National Park Service from limiting snowmobile use in parks until the agency completes a snowmobile study. After a contentious debate, Sen. Thomas withdrew his amendment. On the House side, Rep. Rick Hill (R-Mont.) also planned to offer a rider to the Interior bill that would prevent funding for restricting snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller National Memorial Parkway's winter use plan, but this rider never made it to a vote. However, in the final omnibus bill, Sen. Thomas was able to add his snowmobile rider that prevents the Park Service from taking any actions to restrict snowmobiles in national parks for 2 years (although it will not apply to work on the proposed restrictions in Yellowstone and Grand Teton).

"San Rafael Western Legacy District and National Conservation Act"
S. 2048, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah); H.R. 3605, Rep. Christopher Cannon (R-Utah)
Status: Approved by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Resources Committee, Pulled from House Floor, and rejected as a rider to the FY 2001 Interior Appropriations bill in conference committee
In both the House and the Senate, legislation was introduced to establish the San Rafael Western Legacy District in a unique and starkly beautiful area in southern Utah known as the San Rafael Swell. Despite its title, S. 2048 introduced by Sen. Hatch and H.R. 3605 introduced by Rep. Cannon omit numerous spectacular parts of the Swell and fail to curtail extensive illegal off-road activity that is damaging the area's fragile resources. Furthermore, these bills do not designate a single acre of wilderness, even though more than 1 million acres qualify for this designation.

Although S. 2048 was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, this bill was never considered on the Senate floor. The House companion, H.R. 3605, passed the House Resources Committee but was pulled from consideration on the House floor after Democrats and moderate Republicans offered a series of successful amendments to strengthen environmental protections in the bill. During the final weeks of the session, Rep. Hansen made a final effort to pass H.R. 3605 by attaching it as a rider to the Interior Appropriations bill during conference. However, the rider ultimately was stripped from the bill thanks to the efforts of Reps. David Obey (D-Wis.) and Norman Dicks (D-Wash.), and the Clinton administration.

"Giant Sequoia Groves Protection and Management Act of 2000"
H.R. 4021, Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif.)
Status: Approved by the House Resources Committee
Introduced by Rep. Radanovich, this bill sought to prevent President Clinton from creating the Giant Sequoia National Monument by requiring an 18-month study of the area before monument designation. This bill passed the House Resources Committee by voice vote in April of this year but was not considered on the House floor. On April 15, 2000, President Clinton granted monument status to the area, capping a year-long NRDC campaign to persuade the president to provide permanent protections for the famed ancient sequoias. Encompassing 328,000 acres in the Sequoia National Forest, the new monument will allow for continued public access for hiking, camping, river rafting, kayaking, horseback riding and other recreation

Obstruction of National Monument Designations
H.R. 1487, Rep. James Hansen (R-Utah); S. 729, Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho)
Status: Passed the House; Approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
H.R. 1487, introduced by Rep. Hansen (R-Utah), would impose procedural requirements designed to obstruct the president's ability to designate national monuments. The bill would delay the monument designation process to the point that it would likely become ineffective. The bill passed the House during the first session by a vote of 408 to 2. The Senate companion bill, S. 729 introduced by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and garnered the support of 17 cosponsors, but was never considered on the Senate floor.

"National Monument Accountability Act"
H.R. 4121, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho)
Status: Referred to House Resources Committee
This bill, introduced by Rep. Simpson, also would have undermined the designation of new national monuments by requiring congressional approval before designations take place. The bill did not garner enough momentum to pass the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands.

"American Land Sovereignty Protection Act"
H.R. 883, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska); S. 510, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.)
Status: H.R. 883 passed the House as amended on 5/20/99; S. 510 referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Rep. Young and Sen. Nighthorse Campbell's legislation, dubbed the "Black Helicopter Bill" because it is grounded in distrust of the United Nations, would require Congress to approve U.N. designations of Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites within the United States and would prohibit federal designation of Biosphere Reserves unless there is no adverse effect on state and local government revenue, and adjacent nonfederal property is not restricted in use. By so doing, the bill would effectively end U.S. participation in these two international programs that fully recognize national sovereignty and foster tourism. It would also infringe upon the ability of the United States to protect its natural and cultural resources. Only after significant changes were made, to limit the bill's impact, did it gain enough support to pass the House. The amended bill is still objectionable because it would restrict the ability of the Secretary of Interior to nominate sites for World Heritage and Biosphere Reserve protection. It also requires a number of additional unnecessary reports. This bill, however, stalled in the Senate and faced a veto threat by the White House.


On January 5, 2001, President Clinton announced his decision to protect up to 60 millions of acres of America's forests. In October 1999, the president directed the U.S. Forest Service to develop a plan for permanently protecting up to 60 million acres of national forests from roadbuilding. The President's directive, known as the "Roadless Initiative," will dramatically improve forest protection by banning the construction of additional roads in forests across the country, including the Tongass National Forest in Alaska - the largest unspoiled old growth forest in the United States and the largest temperate rainforest in the world. The rule bans both road-building and logging.

There has been much sound and fury but little action from Congress in response to the Roadless Initiative. Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-Idaho), chair of the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forests Health Multiple, and Sen. Craig (R-Idaho), chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Forests and Public Land Management, both held hearings on this issue. And during consideration of the FY 2001 Interior Appropriations bill, there were isolated and unsuccessful attempts, in the form of legislative riders, to block the Forest Service's roadless rule. Further attacks on the rule are expected in the 107th congress.


Logging Riders
Sponsor: Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho)
Status: Rejected from the FY 2001 Interior Appropriations bill
Sen. Craig proposed an amendment to the Interior bill that would have forced the Forest Service to delay its roadless rule. Fortunately, Sen. Craig dropped this controversial rider after agreeing to a slightly less contentious, but still objectionable, substitute amendment that provides emergency funding for salvage logging in wildfire-burned areas and for commercial 'thinning' of other forests, in addition to more legitimate fire prevention measures. This substitute amendment (see below), introduced by Sen. Pete Domenici (R- N.M.), fails to provide necessary environmental protections and could lead to unnecessary commercial logging in our national forests under the guise of fire prevention.

National Forests Logging Rider
nsor: Sen. Peter Domenici (R-N.M.)
Status: Enacted on 10/11/00 as part of the H.R. 4578, FY 2001 Interior Appropriations bill (Pub. L. No. 106-291)
Continuing his practice of adding anti-environmental provisions to spending bills, Sen. Domenici (R.-N.M.) added language to the Interior bill that will increase damaging logging activities on public lands by limiting environmental reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. This rider also shortens the time allowed for review of administrative appeals and is likely to increase litigation against ill-planned logging. This will be the first time Congress has imposed expedited procedures on National Forest management activities since the notorious "Salvage Rider" of 1995.

Although the administration negotiated some of the worst language out of the rider, it still contains provisions that could delay important administration conservation efforts. It also undermines a more moderate response to wildfire fears and creates momentum for those who would like to waive the application of environmental laws to logging in national forests.

White Mountain National Forest Exemption Rider
Sponsor: Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.)
Status: Withdrawn in the FY 2001 Interior Appropriations conference committee
Sen. Gregg authored a provision in the FY 2001 Interior Appropriations bill that prevents the new roadless rule from applying to the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. This provision would deprive this popular national forest of the protections being developed for roadless wilderness areas in other national forests. This rider was ultimately withdrawn during the Interior bill conference committee negotiations with the Administration.

"Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000"
H.R. 2389, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.); S. 1608, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
Status: Enacted on 10/30/00 (Pub. L. No. 106-393)
In rural counties containing large national forests, there is limited private property to generate taxes that help fund schools and other county infrastructure. As a result, the federal government makes what's know as county payments to substitute for lost property taxes. Historically, county payments were calculated by a formula that is directly related to the value of the timber sales in the national forest. However, timber sales have declined since 1980, and funding for rural schools has suffered. Legislation was introduced in both the House and the Senate to address the allocation of funding based on revenues from local timber sales. Environmentalists support school infrastructure funding, but strongly oppose basing school funding to federal timber sales because it encourages unnecessary logging in our forests.

As passed by the House, H.R. 2389 would lead to increased logging in forests in order to provide adequate funding for schools. H.R. 2389 provides county school payments for the next five years based on the average of the three highest annual payments from FY 1985 to 1999. The largest problem with the bill is that payments are still tied to timber sales and any shortfalls in funding must come from the Forest Service budget. This creates an incentive for the Forest Service to sell more timber, and thus increase logging, so that its budget can make county school payments. The bill also requires counties to spend 15-20 percent of the federal money on public lands projects, but does not provide any safeguards to ensure that these projects are environmentally sound. During floor consideration of H.R. 2389 Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) tried unsuccessfully to improve the bill by isolating timber sales from funding.

The Senate bill, which passed the Senate on September 13, 2000, goes much further than H.R. 2389 to detach school funding from timber sales. S. 1608, introduced by Sen. Wyden, eliminates some incentives for increased logging by using money from the general treasury, and not the Forest Service, to provide for any shortfalls in funding. The bill requires that 50 percent of the public lands projects be road maintenance and stream and watershed restoration. All funds generated by the public lands projects must be returned to the Treasury. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also added a new part of the bill (Title III) that allows the counties to spend funds on a much wider array of programs. These include education programs, fire prevention, conservation easements and community forestry programs on private lands.

This bill was signed by the president on October 30, 2000. However, we haven't seen the last of this issue, because a provision included in the FY 2001 Interior Appropriations conference report authorized a federal advisory commission to study and report back to Congress in three years on the issue of county payments.


"Restoring the Everglades, an American Legacy Act"
S. 2797, Sen. Robert Smith (R-N.H.); H.R. 5121, Connie Mack (R-Fla.)
Status: Enacted on 12/11/00 as part of H.R. 2796, the Water Resources and Development Act of 2000 (Pub. L. No. 106-541)
The U.S. Senate, on September 25, 2000, and the U.S. House of Representatives, on October 19, 2000, passed legislation to authorize a large-scale U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public works project intended - at least principally - to restore the Everglades. The legislation was shepherded diligently through Congress by Sen. Smith (R-N.H.), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, with strong support from Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.). The primary sponsor on the House side was Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.). The legislation passed virtually unanimously in both houses, the result of election year politics and because the huge public works project promised significant benefits to non-environmental interests in Florida.

The Corps' project is called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The Everglades - the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in North America - have been starved of water in some parts and flooded in others as a result of the construction and operation of an extensive canal and levee system criss-crossing central and south Florida. CERP's purpose is to partially "replumb" this part of Florida. While Congress made clear that environmental restoration is the principal purpose of CERP, CERP is also intended to provide additional water supply to agriculture and urban water utilities. The Corps' current "blueprint" for CERP contains 67 projects to be implemented in stages over approximately 25 years at an approximate cost of $8 billion. The legislation authorizes the first ten of these projects, along with four pilot projects and additional planning and monitoring activities, at a cost of $1.4 billion.

While environmentalists support the everglades restoration legislation, some concerns remain. As enacted, the law contains the bare minimum in terms of legal assurances that significant restoration will occur in a reasonable period of time, so strong and consistent political pressure will be necessary and possibly reforms in the law. Moreover, the current CERP blueprint itself requires modification so that restoration benefits to the Everglades will arrive early in the project. Under the current implementation schedule, significant benefits to Everglades National Park are not provided until almost $4 billion and ten years into the plan. "Programmatic" regulations, which the legislation requires be developed over the next two years and over which the Department of Interior has veto authority, will be crucial to our efforts to fix these problems. These regulations - to be effective - will need to include quantitative targets, a strong ongoing role for Interior and an outside science review process.

The Everglades restoration legislation also contained a resolution concerning the controversial proposal to develop a commercial airport at the former Homestead air base. Environmentalists, the Department of Interior, EPA, and other agencies oppose the airport at the Homestead site, which is immediately adjacent to Biscayne and Everglades national parks. A congressional resolution, championed by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and strongly opposed by Senators Graham (D-Fla.) and Mack (R-Fla.), expressed concern about the airport's potential pollution and asked that any development at Homestead be consistent with Everglades restoration efforts. On January 16, the Air Force rejected the airport proposal and transferred the property to Miami-Dade county, resulting in a major victory for protection of the Everglades.

"The Conservation and Reinvestment Act"
H.R. 701, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.); S. 2123, S. 25, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.); S. 2567, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.); S. 2181, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.)
Status: Passed the House, Approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Funding included in H.R. 4578, the FY 2001 Interior Appropriations bill
For the last two years, President Clinton has requested funding for his Lands Legacy proposal, which would dedicate landmark levels of funding for federal and state conservation programs to protect America's land, water, and wildlife resources. Under the president's plan, state and local governments would receive a significant increase in funding for land, coastal protection, and historic and wildlife preservation. The FY 2000 Budget included $652 million in land conservation funding, and the president requested an increase in funding for the FY 2001 Budget.

Opposition by western senators killed a landmark bill that would have authorized long-term funding for land, wildlife, marine coastal, and cultural conservation needs. House Resources Committee Chairman Young and Ranking Member Miller compromised and agreed to increased conservation funding and eventually joined forces to introduce H.R. 701: the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA). This bill, which passed the House on May 1, 2000 by a vote of 315 to 102, allocated revenues from outer continental oil and gas drilling to provide almost $3 billion for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, federal land acquisition, coastal area restoration, and state wildlife programs. Although CARA provided important conservation funding, it included incentives for offshore oil drilling in ecologically sensitive areas, failed to ensure that funding to coastal states will not be used for environmentally harmful projects, did not include funding for non-game and vulnerable wildlife species, and failed to guarantee that land acquisition will not hamper efforts to protect ecologically important areas.

Although the bill overwhelmingly passed the House, CARA ran into trouble in the Senate. Many western senators strongly opposed the bill's provisions regarding federal land acquisition. Senate Appropriations Committee members felt it was an intrusion into their jurisdiction because it mandated long-term funding. The House-passed version of CARA, introduced as S. 2567 by Sen. Boxer, never had a chance of passing on the Senate floor. Sen. Murkowski and Bingaman negotiated a compromise between their respective proposals, but failed to get enough support to bring it to the floor for consideration.

With the prospects for H.R. 701 increasingly dim, in a surprise move Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.) proposed an addition to the FY 2001 Interior bill in conference that would provide significant funding for land and water conservation programs. Major portions of the president's Lands Legacy proposal were incorporated into the bill, funding conservation programs for six years, starting at $1.6 billion in the first year and increasing up to $2.4 billion by the sixth year. The source of this significant new conservation funding is general revenues and not offshore oil and gas drilling. The funding was included in the final spending bill and, while falling short of the ultimate goal of restoring full, permanent funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, represents a landmark contribution toward the conservation needs of state, local, and federal lands and wildlife.


Missouri River Endangered Species Rider
Sponsor: Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Status: Rejected from the H.R. 4635, the FY 2001 Energy and Water Appropriations bill
Sen. Bond, representing the interests of the dwindling barge transport industry along the Missouri River, inserted a provision in the FY 2001 Energy and Water Appropriations bill that would prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from modifying water flow in the Missouri River to meet the needs of federally protected endangered species. The environmental community strongly opposed this rider because it blocks much needed water flow changes and reform of the Army Corps of Engineers' operations on the Missouri River, and would contribute to the extinction of three endangered species. As Senate Minority Leader Daschle (D-ND) stated on the Senate floor during the contentious debate on this rider, "A process has been created, enacted by this Congress, that allows very careful consideration of all the different factors that must be applied as we make decisions with regard to management of a river, of wetlands, of anything else...... The legislation currently within the energy and water bill stops that in its tracks."

On September 7, 2000, Senators Daschle (D-N.D.) and Baucus (D-Mont.) attempted to remove this damaging rider from the bill by offering an amendment on the Senate floor. After a contentious debate between Senators Daschle and Bond, this amendment was defeated by a vote of 45 to 52. President Clinton threatened to veto the Energy and Water Appropriations bill because of the inclusion of this rider, and the rider was then dropped during conference negotiations.

Rio Grande Endangered Species Rider
Sponsor: Sen. Peter Domenici (R-N.M.)
Status: Rejected during the FY 2001 Energy and Water Appropriations bill conference committee
As a result of water diversions that literally have left sections of the river almost completely dry, the Rio Grande in New Mexico is one of the nation's 10 most endangered rivers. The silvery minnow, the last of four endemic species in the Rio Grande, is on the brink of extinction. Other species, such as the southwestern willow fly catcher and the Pecos bluntnosed shiner, also are in danger of extinction after this past summer's drought. Of the remaining wild fish populations, 95 percent are stranded and threatened with extinction in a small stretch of the Rio Grande River below the Elephant Butte dam, which is blocking the water flow.

The BLM recently ordered the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to keep water flowing to this small stretch of the river in a final effort to save these endangered and threatened species. But a rider inserted into the FY 2001 Energy and Water appropriations bill by Sen. Domenici would prohibit the BLM from providing any emergency supplemental water into the Rio Grande and Pecos rivers, effectively blocking implementation of emergency conservation measures to save the fish and directly violate the Endangered Species Act.

Senators Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Harry Reid (D-N.V.) strongly opposed this rider and put substantial pressure on Sen. Domenici to remove it from the bill. President Clinton vetoed the Energy and Water bill because this rider was included in it, and while the House voted to override it, the Senate did not have the votes to override the veto until the Silvery Minnow Rider was dropped from the bill. Sen. Domenici ultimately agreed to drop the rider after communicating with Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt regarding the management of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.



Back to contents page | Next page

Get Updates and Alerts

See the latest issue >

Give the Gift That Will Make a Difference: Take Down a Polluter

NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs

Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.

Donate now >

Share | |