Response to Speaker's Environmental Task Force Roosevelt Island Statement

Statement by Rodger Schlickeisen President, Defenders of Wildlife

(05/15/1996) - Teddy Roosevelt is rolling over in his grave. If the document released by the Speaker's environmental task force on Roosevelt Island today is a "vision" statement, we're all going to need de-foggers to see through it. If the leadership of the 104th Congress cares about the environment, a murky statement of principles won't do. Actions speak louder than words.

The Speaker said today that these principles will lay the "foundation of the new environmentalism, which will define the environmental agenda for the 21st Century," but under his leadership, the House has been madly at work trying to destroy all the major environmental protections of the 20th century. Most recently, it passed legislation undermining the purpose of our National Wildlife Refuge System, which was started by Teddy Roosevelt. Despite the President's veto, and overwhelming public opposition, they have AGAIN tried to open the door for oil drilling in our nation's premiere refuge, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, by including false revenue assumptions in the House Budget Resolution (H. Con. Res. 178), which is expected to be considered this week on the House floor.

Their principles say that, "Americans should be asured that...wilderness areas will be protected," but their budget resolution attacks our greatest wilderness frontier. Offering verbal reassurance isn't enough, they must take action to ensure protection of the Arctic refuge. If they truly care about the environment, they should get this out of the Budget Resolution.

In fact, if they want an action agenda to implement environmental principles, they can start by taking a stance opposing riders overriding our environmental laws in budget and appropriations bills in the upcoming funding cycle. For Fiscal Year 1996, a whole slew of anti-environmental budget riders that were attached to budget legislation. And they should support restoring funding levels for the Interior Appropriations bill that supports not only the backdrop of today's press conference, Roosevelt Island, but also many other natural resource programs, including protecting our national parks and forests.

Of all the statements made today, Teddy Roosevelt perhaps would be most perturbed to hear Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), who has authored legislation to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act, talk about "carrying on the conservationist tradition of Teddy Roosevelt." The principles released today state that "environmental decisions should be based on the most advanced, sound scientific evidence." Yet the scientific community has overwhelmingly opposed legislation introduced by Pombo and others that undermines the ESA. The National Academy of Sciences has determined that the Act is basically sound, but such scientific opinions have fallen on deaf ears in the 104th Congress.

How will the House leadership make its environmental vision come true? A good start would be concrete, bipartisan action to protect the environment for all Americans, not just special interests. Defenders of Wildlife is calling on the leadership to support a strong Endangered Species Act, repudiate the bad refuge bill, remove the rider that endangers the Arctic wildlife refuge, and remove all other anti-environmental budget riders.



Joan Moody, 202-682-9400 x220 (Media)