Anti-Environmental Riders on Interior Spending Bill to Test Senate Resolve

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(07/27/1999) - Washington, D.C. – A Senate Interior Appropriations bill loaded with anti-environmental riders is expected today to provide the first test of the Senate’s resolve to avoid legislating on appropriations bills. Last night the Senate voted to reinstate “Rule 16," a precedent prohibiting the body from adding policy amendments to appropriations bills.

"The reinstatement of Rule 16 is a strong statement against the anti-environmental, anti-democratic, back-door, dead-of-night legislating that has pervaded the Senate over the past four years," said Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife. "It would be the height of hypocrisy for that body to now turn around and immediately pass a bill laden with anti-environmental riders," he added.

Until 1995, the century-old Rule 16 prohibited senators from adding new legislation on appropriations bills. In March of that year, the Senate overturned the precedent in order to pass an anti- Endangered Species Act amendment on the Defense Department emergency supplemental appropriations bill. Since 1995, senators have been prohibited from raising a point of order, or objection, to the inclusion of anti-environmental riders.

As a consequence, over the past four years, riders repeatedly have been used to pursue anti-environmental policy efforts such as increased logging in national forests and unsustainable livestock grazing on federal lands.

The Interior Appropriations bill, to be considered by the full Senate as early as today, contains at least 10 anti-environmental policy riders (see list following release). The riders range from prohibiting grizzly bear reintroduction to undermining science-based management of national forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands.

The grizzly bear rider would ensure that no bears could be reintroduced into Montana or Idaho without written consent from the governors of those states, and it would make this requirement apply forever, not just to the fiscal year to which the Interior bill applies. This rider would create an unprecedented situation in which a U.S. Endangered Species Act program on federal lands would be regulated by the states. In addition, this rider would derail a collaborative effort by local timber, conservation, and labor interests to restore grizzly bears to the Selway-Bitterroot ecosystem in Idaho and Montana.

The forest-management rider would give the Forest Service and BLM sole discretion over whether to conduct wildlife population surveys when making land-management decisions and would undermine the National Forest Management Act.

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270