Countdown to Shutdown? Nine Reasons Congress Could Force A Government Shutdown

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(10/08/1998) - Conservationists today warned that the 105th Congress is on track to become the most anti-environmental Congress in history, potentially forcing a government shutdown similar to the one in 1995. Citing dozens of anti-environmental riders attached to an array of spending bills for fiscal 1999, Defenders of Wildlife expressed concern that much of this legislation and much of the blame for it will be overlooked or misdirected because of recent White House events that have dominated the news.

"If the government shuts down because of a presidential veto, the responsibility will rest firmly on the shoulders of this Congress," said Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife. "President Clinton and Vice President Gore have consistently warned this Congress that they will not tolerate attacks on our environmental protections. We want to be sure that the facts are known: Extremist members of Congress are trying to use President Clinton's personal problems as a smoke screen for advancing the most anti-environmental agenda ever to come out of the Capitol."

Since the various appropriations bills first surfaced earlier this year, environmentalists and the Clinton Administration have been expressing strong opposition to the extreme anti-environmental riders contained in them. As recently as last June, Vice President Gore held a White House press conference to reiterate the administration's commitment to vetoing appropriations bills that carry damaging environmental riders. (More) Defenders' Schlickeisen represented the environmental community at the White House event.

"Our environmental coalition has placed advertisements throughout the country warning that the possible anti-environmental riders and other provisions are so numerous that this Congress may pass TWICE as many damaging provisions as the last," Schlickeisen said. "If one-quarter of their pending proposals are enacted, the 105th will rank as the most anti-environmental Congress ever."

One example of an environmentally threatening amendment is the "grizzly bear rider" attached to the Interior appropriations bill. If enacted, this rider could stop the critical U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly reintroduction program in the Selway-Bitteroot ecosystem of Idaho and Montana. Less than 2 percent of historical grizzly bear populations remain in the lower 48 states, and the Selway-Bitteroot is the largest roadless area remaining in the lower 48. (A list of eight other critical anti-environmental riders is attached.)

"The President is threatening to veto appropriations bills because some senior congressmen are having a field-day attaching one destructive anti-environmental rider after another to every appropriations bill they can," Schlickeisen said. "They are trying to take advantage of current distractions in Washington to sneak through dozens of anti-environmental riders that they know would not stand a chance if the public had an opportunity to scrutinize them, or if their own colleagues had the chance to vote on them. Today's 302-123 vote defeating the horrible Omnibus Parks bill proves that."

Schlickeisen concluded, "We applaud the President for keeping his focus and standing up to the Congress to protect the environment."

A complete list of current and proposed anti-environmental riders is available by calling Ken Goldman at 202-682-9400 x221 and a list of nine follows

Here are just a few of the anti-environmental riders that Congress is poised to enact:

In the Senate Interior Appropriations Bill (S. 2237):

  • The grizzly bear rider would stop plans to reintroduce the magnificent grizzly bear into the Selway-Bitteroot system of Idaho and Montana. The plan is a significant effort to provide local citizens an expanded role in endangered species management. Less than two percent of grizzlies that existed in the lower 48 states during Lewis and Clark's era remain.
  • The Izembek road rider would punch a road through the Alaska's Izembek National wildlife refuge thereby overriding the 1964 Wilderness Act and authorizing the first permanent road through seven miles of congressionally designated wilderness. Species threatened include: Stellar's Eider, brown bear, wolf, caribou, anadromous fish, the entire population of Pacific black brant and most of the world's emperor geese.
  • The Alaska Tongass national Forest rider would allow more than two times the amount of clearcutting currently cut in our nation's largest remaining temperate rainforest. More than 400,000 roadless acres of remaining pristine forest would be lost every 10 years -- damaging habitat essential for the grizzly bear, bald eagles, salmon, Queen Charlotte goshawk, Alexander Archipelago wolf, and Sitka black-tailed deer.
  • The grazing rider would mandate the renewal of grazing permits on Bureau of Land Management lands despite incomplete or non existent environmental analyses. Millions of acres of BLM public rangeland support endangered species, wildlife and their habitat including the Sonoran pronghorn antelope, lesser long-nosed bat, cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, Southwest willow flycatcher and Loach minnow.
  • The salmon rider would impede, without congressional approval, salmon restoration by preventing needed changes to hundreds of hydropower dams in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Salmon in the Pacific Northwest have dwindled to as low as one percent of historical numbers in the lower 48 states and have become extinct in more than half of their native rivers.
  • Various Forest Service riders would hammer away at protection of our national forests. These provisions would delay funding to decommission or repair deteriorating national forest system roads,stall revision of badly outdated forest plans that allow unsustainable logging, and encourage logging in exchange for habitat restoration inforests in Idaho and Montana.

In the House Interior Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4193):

  • The Chugach road rider would give Chugach Alaska Corporation permission to build a 25 mile, 250-foot-wide road across the Bering and Copper River watersheds in the heart of our nation's second largest forest. This road would become the largest wetlands development project on the continent, severing as many as 250 salmon streams and threatening the wildlife of the Copper River Delta including grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, mountain goats, moose,mink, and wolverines.

In both the House and Senate Interior Appropriations Bills:

  • The Columbia Basin rider would effectively end the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Plan (ICBEMP) and terminate a new management strategies that cross jurisdictional boundaries such as anadromous fisheries, forest management, and natural disturbances. The Senate version goes even further, undermining endangered species protection in the 144 million acre Columbia Basin by allowing the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to approve individual site-specific projects like grazing leases and timber sales before looking at long-term cumulative impacts on threatened and endangered species.

In the Senate Transportation Bill (S. 2307):

  • The Helicopters in Wilderness rider would permit helicopters to fly over Alaska's National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and Wilderness Study areas seriously impacting wildlife.

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Contact(s):

Ken Goldman, 202-682-9400 x221
Robert Dewey, 202-682-9400 x228 Habitat Director