Conservationists Say Legislation Attacking Public Lands Invites Veto

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(10/28/1997) -

ALASKA WILDERNESS LEAGUE * DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE
EARTHJUSTICE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND * FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
NATIONAL PARKS AND CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION
NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL * PACIFIC RIVERS COUNCIL
SOUTHWEST CENTER FOR BIODIVERSITY * TROUT UNLIMITED
WESTERN ANCIENT FOREST CAMPAIGN * THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
WORLD WILDLIFE FUND

Washington, D.C. -- Conservationists say that the 'FY '98 Interior appropriations conference report passed 84 to 14 by the Senate today represents an unacceptable assault on America's public lands and a giveaway to corporate interests. They urged President Clinton to veto the bill, pointing to a number of controversial riders that would jeopardize the national forests, parks, wildlife refuges, and other public lands and wildlife covered by appropriations for the Interior Department and U.S. Forest Service.

Gene Karpinski, Executive Director of U.S. PIRG, said today, "This bill will flatten our forests and taxpayers' pocketbooks; it's an outrageous giveaway to timber and grazing interests."

Controversial riders in the conference report to H.R. 2107 passed today would:

  • expand federal subsidies for the timber industry

  • override court-ordered grazing reforms on national forests

  • block priority land acquisition needs at both federal and state levels

  • prevent the Forest Service from updating its forest management plans and thus better managing forests for conservation and other uses; and

  • prevent reintroduction of grizzly bears into Idaho wilderness and hinder proper application of the Endangered Species Act.
Moreover, the bill sets a "terrible precedent" of allowing use of Land & Water Conservation Fund monies for non-land acquisition purposes.

Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife, commented, "Here Congress goes again. They claim to be greener, but the bill passed today puts more black marks than green ones on their environmental record. We are grateful to President Clinton for turning back previous raids on our wildlife and public lands and trust he'll do so again."

"Congress has not learned its lessons from the shutdowns of the past two years. Have they forgotten that the last time they attached so many anti-environmental riders to the Interior appropriations bill, the public was outraged and President Clinton vetoed it?" asked Greg Wetstone, Legislative Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director, said, "President Clinton knows what the American people want him to do: protect our National Parks, National Forests and other public lands from the extremists in Congress who keep making backroom deals for special interest friends."

"This bill is proof-positive that Washington's corporate lobbyists are earning their pay. It is loaded up with special favors for the timber industry, livestock interests, and others who think Uncle Sam owes them a break. Do we need to clean up politics? This bill tells us we do," says Bill Meadows, President of The Wilderness Society.

Although the conservationists say the bill contains some good provisions, they note that, "Like the Administration, our organizations have earnestly worked for many of the provisions in the FY 1998 Interior Appropriations bill and we find ourselves in the painful position of asking the President to veto a bill that carries with it many beneficial provisions. Nonetheless, we do not hesitate to recommend a veto, for the alternative is an Interior bill that will do far more harm than good."

"President Clinton needs to remember the lessons learned between the clearcut rider and the government shutdowns of the last Congress," concludes Marty Hayden, Senior Policy Analyst with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. "Veto threats only work if you follow through."

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270