Beyond Playing Defense: Good News for Land & Wildlife in the Budget

Advisory to Broadcast Editors: B-Roll of Lands Legacy Sites* Available

(11/18/1999) - Washington, D.C. -- Conservationists today gave the Clinton Administration “strong, heartfelt praise" for significant victories in negotiating the environmental provisions of final FY 2000 Omnibus Appropriations bill. House appropriators also were given kudos for helping to derail numerous damaging anti-environmental riders. Conservationists noted, however, that some riders that roll back environmental protections still remain in the final bill.

“This year the White House not only played a very strong defense against destructive, anti-environmental riders coming from Capitol Hill, but also mounted a huge pro-land, pro-wildllife, pro-clean air, pro-clean water offense to make big gains for our environment," says Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen. “As a result, more than in any other recent year, the environment has been front and center in the national debate on the budget."

“We want to offer our strong, heartfelt praise to the Administration and especially to congratulate the White House and Interior Department for winning a significant portion of the President’s historic Lands Legacy funding initiative." Schlickeisen chairs a coalition of conservation groups that supports increased funding for the land & water conservation initiatives.

The Administration won $651 million for Lands Legacy, an historic initiative to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and other programs to preserve natural treasures and provide states and local communities with new resources to protect green spaces. Lands Legacy funding, a 42 percent increase over last year, includes approximately $420 million for federal agencies to acquire and protect dozens of natural and historic sites around the country under the federal LWCF, including treasures in the California Desert*, Everglades*, Baca Ranch of New Mexico, and an additional $26 million to manage and protect marine sanctuaries and coral reefs.

Also obtained were $206 million for state and local governments to help communities preserve their farms, urban parks, coastal areas and working forests -- $40 million of this amount funds the state LWCF program for the first time since 1995.

“When the President proposed his Lands Legacy Initiative last January, he also made an historic commitment to seek permanent funding beginning in 2001," Schlickeisen noted. “The funding secured by the President is a great achievement for this first year of the initiative and we look forward to working with him next year to ensure a permanent mandatory funding stream through Lands Legacy legislation."

“We also applaud the President for standing up to anti-environmental Members of Congress and defeating some of the worst riders. The Administration deserves tremendous credit for mounting a stronger defense against these destructive riders than in any year since the big budget battle of 1995-96," Schlickeisen said. “House appropriators – especially Chairman Bill Young (R-FL)and Ranking Member Dave Obey (R-WI), Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Ralph Regula (R- OH) and Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA) – and House moderate Republicans together with the Administration also deserve strong praise for helping to stop some proposed riders that would have been devastating."

One of these proposed riders, pushed by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WVA), would have overridden important environmental protections in the 1972 Clean Water Act and 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act for mountaintop-removal coal mining. Another would have prolonged unlawful air pollution from coal-fired plants in violation of the Clean Air Act. Conservationists warn that Sen. Byrd may still try to attach his rider to another bill before Congress adjourns.

The President was also successful in getting a number of riders that had been included in the final Interior appropriations bill dropped completely or significantly improved. Riders that would have undermined science- based management of national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands and derailed a program essential to grizzly bear recovery were eliminated. And the Administration made significant progress in mitigating some of the objectionable aspects of two mining riders that would have prevented new rules for hardrock mining from moving forward and allowed unlimited dumping of mine waste on public lands.

Unfortunately, the final bill still contains anti-environmental riders. One of these would allow the renewal of 10-year grazing permits on public lands, potentially allowing damaging grazing practices to continue indefinitely on millions of acres of public rangelands that support endangered species, wildlife, recreation, and cultural resources. Another would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from taking any action to prohibit mining on the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.

Note: These assessments on the riders and other information are based on verbal reports from both Hill and Administration sources about what is in the final bill but Defenders of Wildlife has not yet seen the final bill language at this time.

B-Roll of the California Desert, Everglades, and other parks, recreation, and wildlife is available by calling Joan Moody at 202- 682-9400 x 220.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270