Senate Committee Attaches Appropriations Rider to Halt Grizzly Bear Reintroduction

(07/22/1997) - Washington, DC - The Senate Appropriations Committee today accepted an amendment to the Interior appropriations bill that could negate the cooperative efforts of the timber industry, conservation groups, and organized labor to resolve collaboratively the issues of grizzly reintroduction.

Portraying the rider as a "noncontroversial" amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill, Senators Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Larry Craig (R-ID) won approval from the committee to halt use of funds for implementation of a July 1997 draft environmental impact statement proposing reintroduction of grizzlies to the remote Selway-Bitteroot area of Idaho and adjacent Montana.

Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife, said today, "Here we go again. This is the just latest attack on the Endangered Species Act and continues back-door attempts to make destructive environmental policies by attaching riders to appropriations bills." He warned that, "The anti-endangered species crowd should be reminded that during the previous Congress, Sen. Burns' similar attack on funding for Rocky Mountain wolf reintroduction was squelched, and an unsuccessful vote on an amendment by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) that would have undermined the red wolf program gave conservationists their first floor victory over anti-environmental extremists."

The plan for grizzly reintroduction adopted in the recent draft environmental impact statement was developed cooperatively by representatives of Defenders of Wildlife, the National Wildlife Federation, the timber industry, labor unions, and other citizens in the region. Rather than the traditional approach to endangered species' reintroduction, grizzlies would be restored as an experimental population under the supervision of a Citizen Management Committee consisting largely of local citizens.

The citizen management approach has won editorial endorsement from newspapers including the Idaho Post-Register, which noted on July 17, 1997 that, "The potential here is breathtaking. Idahoans and Montanans can achieve a national goal -- the recovery of the grizzly -- while addressing their own legitimate concerns. If it works, more local partnerships on everything from wildlife programs to land management could follow."

The public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement is still open. Schlickeisen noted that, "The public has the opportunity to voice their support or their reservations for this plan openly through the environmental impact statement process. Today's attempt to circumvent this process marks another sign that anti-environmental forces have not become 'greener' in the 105th Congress, but are offering the same kind of harmful amendments under different guises, like a bad penny that keeps showing up."



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270