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HR 4578 - - 07/10/2000

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July 10, 2000

(Sponsors: Stevens (R), Alaska; Gorton (R), Washington)

This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 2001, as reported by the Senate Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated.

The President's FY 2001 Budget is based on a balanced approach that maintains fiscal discipline, eliminates the national debt, extends the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, provides for an appropriately sized tax cut, establishes a new voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit in the context of broader reforms, expands health care coverage to more families, and funds critical investments for our future. An essential element of this approach is ensuring adequate funding for discretionary programs. To this end, the President has proposed discretionary spending limits at levels that we believe are necessary to serve the American people.

Unfortunately, the FY 2001 congressional budget resolution provides inadequate resources for discretionary investments. We need realistic levels of funding for critical government functions that the American people expect their government to perform well, including education, national security, law enforcement, environmental protection, natural resource conservation, preservation of our global leadership, air safety, food safety, economic assistance for the less fortunate, research and technology, and the administration of Social Security and Medicare. Based on the inadequate budget resolution, this bill fails to address critical needs of the American people.

The Administration appreciates efforts by the Committee to accommodate a part of the President's priorities within the 302(b) allocations, such as increased funding over the FY 2000 enacted levels for national park and other land management operations and important cultural agencies. The Administration also strongly supports the goal expressed in the Committee mark-up of keeping the bill clean of environmental and other authorization provisions. However, the allocation falls short of making the necessary investments in programs funded by the bill. As a result, the Committee bill severely underfunds the President's Lands Legacy Initiative, the Native American Initiative, programs for clean and efficient energy, the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities, and other critical programs, as described below. Unfortunately, the bill also includes several legislative riders that are highly objectionable to the Administration.

The Committee's inability to fund key programs sufficiently and its inclusion of damaging riders would lead the President's senior advisers to recommend a veto if the bill were presented to the President in its current form.

Below is a discussion of our specific concerns with the Committee bill. We look forward to working with the Committee to resolve these concerns as the bill moves forward.

Objectionable Legislative Riders

The Administration strongly opposes the environmental and other authorization provisions in the Committee-reported bill, which are inappropriate for inclusion in an appropriations act. Such riders rarely receive the level of congressional and public review required of authorization language, and they often override existing environmental and natural resource protections.

The following are among the most objectionable provisions in the bill (listed in bill order):

  • Grazing Permits (Sec. 116). This rider would require the Secretary of the Interior to extend for up to 10 years any permit to graze livestock on public lands that expires in FY 2001, pending completion of environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). There is no demonstrated need for this provision because the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will complete in FY 2001 the processing of all permits scheduled to expire in that fiscal year. The provision could give an incentive for grazing operations with a poor environmental record to delay processing compliance in hopes of winning an automatic renewal.

  • Prohibit Establishment of a National Wildlife Refuge in IN/IL (Sec. 119). By preventing the use of funds to establish a new National Wildlife Refuge on the Kankakee River in Illinois and Indiana, this provision would infringe on the Interior Department's ability under current law to protect and preserve migratory birds and endangered species. The Fish and Wildlife Service is working on this proposal with the Army Corps of Engineers and many State and local groups.

  • Prohibition on Taking Land into Trust for Shoalwater Indians - WA (Sec. 121). This rider would continue last year's objectionable enacted prohibition on using funds to transfer land into trust status for the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe in Clark County, Washington, until legally enforceable tax, zoning, and economic development impact issues between the tribe and the local government are agreed upon, thus unnecessarily restricting the authority of the Interior Secretary to take land into trust for a tribe.

  • American Heritage Rivers (Sec. 326). The provision would diminish opportunities for inter-agency coordination and cooperation, thereby preventing the participating Federal agencies funded in this bill from offering the most effective assistance to river communities throughout the country.

  • Kyoto Protocol (Sec. 329). This section purports to prohibit Federal agencies funded in the bill from implementing the Kyoto Protocol. This provision is unnecessary, as the Administration has no intent to implement the Protocol prior to congressional ratification. To the extent this language might reach expenditures for negotiations with foreign governments, it would raise serious constitutional concerns, because the Constitution commits to the President the power to decide whether to engage in such negotiations.

  • Mineral Development in the Mark Twain (MO) National Forest (Sec. 335). This rider, an extension of one of the few objectionable environmental riders enacted in FY 2000, would continue to override the ability of Federal land managers to withdraw lands in the national forest from future mineral development. These lands border the Ozark Scenic Riverways National Parks.

  • Expanding Stewardship Pilot Projects (Sec. 336). This provision would authorize the Forest Service to enter into an additional 28 stewardship "end-result" contracts nationwide. The Forest Service has only begun similar pilot projects authorized in FY 1999 and has yet to implement the congressional direction to include multi-party monitoring of the individual projects and to evaluate their effectiveness. Expanding these types of projects without evaluating and learning from the pilot stage would make the program appear less about stewardship and more as a new vehicle for increased timber production from national forests, undermining collaborative efforts to address forest health issues.

  • Recreation Fee Exemptions (Sec. 338). This section would exempt residents who live within the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire from paying recreation fees. The exemption would set an improper precedent of requiring some Americans to pay more than others to use the same Federal lands.

  • Fees for Rights-of-Ways Across Public Lands (Sec. 339). This rider would prevent the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service from collecting fair market value when granting right-of-way requests for uses of the public lands, including the siting of utility corridors, electrical lines, roads, and fiberoptic cable. It would also prevent both agencies from moving forward with their rule-making process, or soliciting public comments on updating the current rights-of-way fee schedule last published in 1987. In addition, the rider would undermine agency proposals to use appraisals based on local market conditions to determine fair market value until a national fee schedule is implemented. Collection of fair market value for these rights-of-way is required by the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

  • White River (CO) National Forest Land Management Plan (Sec. 341) . This provision would unnecessarily delay implementation of a revised and improved forest plan on the White River National Forest in Colorado by requiring an unnecessary regulatory flexibility analysis. A rider on last year's appropriations bill extended the comment period on the draft plan to a total of 270 days. The provision would undermine the local, collaborative planning already underway.

  • Exemption from Roadless Area Protections (Sec. 342). This rider would prevent the Forest Service from protecting roadless areas in New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest through its roadless area conservation proposal. This exemption would, on a piecemeal basis, undermine the roadless proposal, which would eliminate the greatest threats to these critical areas at the national level and then allow local managers to consider additional protections.

  • Excessive Timber Targets. Forest Service appropriation language in Title II for the Administrative Provision Section seeks to require the Forest Service to achieve an excessive timber target, potentially at the expense of funding for recreation, fish and wildlife, watershed restoration, and other important agency programs.

  • Infringement on Executive Authority. The Administration objects to a number of provisions in the bill that would require congressional approval before Executive Branch execution. The Administration will interpret these provisions to require only notification of Congress, since any other interpretation would contradict the Supreme Court ruling in INS v. Chadha.

  • Endangered Species Act Recovery Efforts. The Administration is also concerned about report language that could potentially hamper grizzly bear and wolf recovery efforts by the Interior Department.

Additionally, the Administration understands that highly objectionable riders may be offered on the Senate Floor that would:

  • remove lands from the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, prior to completion of a pending environmental impact statement (EIS) on proposals to maintain navigation through Oregon Inlet (NC). This would undermine the EIS process by selecting one option -- the construction of a dual jetty and sand transfer system -- before a decision on alternatives can be made.

  • delay nationwide implementation of the Forest Service's roadless area conservation policy, by requiring the Agriculture Department to establish an unnecessary Federal advisory committee before the Department can take steps to protect critical roadless areas inside national forests and the benefits that they provide, such as dispersed recreation, pure drinking water, and habitat for fish and wildlife.

  • block the National Park Service from using existing authorities to limit the use of snowmobiles in national park units, overriding the Interior Secretary's authority to protect and preserve the natural resources and values of national park lands for all citizens.

The Administration urges the Senate to pass a bill that the President can sign, a clean bill that does not attempt to roll back environmental protections or tribal policies, benefit special interests, or circumvent authorization or administrative procedures by attaching riders to appropriations bills.

Lands Legacy Initiative/Land and Water Conservation Fund

The President's Lands Legacy Initiative is seriously underfunded by over $600 million (66 percent below the request). These reductions would undermine Federal land conservation efforts to protect national treasures. State and community conservation efforts would also suffer due to inadequate Federal support for State and local programs to acquire and protect environmentally sensitive lands, enhance forests and wildlife habitat, promote urban forests and outdoor recreation, and address sprawl. It would be shortsighted not to provide adequate support for the important Lands Legacy Initiative, given the bipartisan recognition of the need for the Federal Government, the States, Tribes, local governments, and other groups to protect open spaces and preserve America's great places.

Department of the Interior

The Administration appreciates the Committee's $344 million increase above the House bill for the Department of the Interior, and the extension of the recreation entrance fee authority. However, this mark still falls well below the President's request, representing an overall reduction of eight percent. While the level of funding provided by the Committee for operations of the land management agencies in the Department is about $178 million more than the FY 2000 level, the level provided still fails to address adequately priority maintenance and operational needs identified in the President's budget, including the Fish and Wildlife Service's law enforcement initiative, the endangered species listing program, BLM's management of national monuments and other special areas, and the Geological Survey's science priorities and other key activities.

Native American Programs

The Administration appreciates the Committee's recommendation of an additional $212 million above the House bill for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Office of the Special Trustee (OST). The Committee is commended for the support it has given to OST's trust reform activities, operation of tribal colleges, construction of six BIA replacement schools, major repairs and maintenance for other BIA schools, implementation of new and expanded tribal contract and compact agreements, and meeting Federal pay adjustments. However, the Committee's mark still falls $116 million below the request for Native American programs, especially in such critical areas as BIA's Indian trust fund management improvements; Indian school operations, early childhood development, and special residential programs; law enforcement and public safety services; and, housing improvement and road maintenance on Indian reservations. We urge the Senate to provide the full amount requested for Interior's component of the Government-wide Native American Programs Initiative.

While the Administration is pleased that the Committee has provided a $143 million increase over the FY 2000 enacted level for the Indian Health Service, we are disappointed that the increase results in a funding level that is still $87 million below the Administration's request, which is another key component of our Native American Programs Initiative. Native Americans continue to experience health disparities -- mortality rates for alcoholism, tuberculosis, diabetes, and accidents are all more than three times higher for Indian people than they are for all Americans. At the Committee funding level, 730 fewer days of inpatient care and 28,600 fewer visits to doctors and dentists would be purchased from the private sector through Contract Health Services than would be purchased under the budget request. The budget request also proposes new initiatives to target major health problems, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dental and mental health. Few, if any, of these initiatives could be supported under the funding level provided by the Committee. We urge the Senate to provide the full amount requested for the Indian Health Service's component of the Native American Programs Initiative.

Forest Service (USDA)

The Administration commends the Committee for approving funding for Forest Service Capital Improvement and Maintenance activities, including road maintenance and improvements, which are an important element of our Clean Water Action Plan. However, the funding levels provided still fail to address adequately many priority maintenance and operational needs identified in the President's budget, including the Forest Service's recreation and tourism initiative. In addition, by not including requested funding for forest planning, the bill would contribute to the backlog of land management plans that have not been updated to incorporate current science and public priorities. In addition, species inventory and monitoring funding would be reduced by 15 percent from the President's budget, a reduction that could undermine the credibility and legal defensibility of key natural resource projects that provide goods and services to the American people. Moreover, cutting Washington Office funding for the planning, species inventory, and monitoring programs in half would severely disrupt internal agency accountability and coordination, leading to less efficient use of resources on the ground.

The Committee bill funds forest products (timber production) at a level of $25 million, or 11 percent, above the request, at the expense of the wildlife and fish management, recreation, and ecosystem planning programs. The Administration urges the Committee to redirect unrequested funds to these high priority programs, and to include funding for survey and management activities necessary for forest products and other ground-disturbing projects. The Administration also urges full funding for the Forest Service's Forest Legacy program so that the agency can work with States and willing private landowners to conserve environmentally important forests threatened by development.

The bill includes land acquisition funding for the Tongass National Forest, in part to fund an anticipated no-cost land transfer from the Forest Service to Craig, Alaska. The Administration believes that Congress should provide general fiscal assistance to this city through direct appropriations, rather than transfer Forest Service lands in an attempt to generate municipal income through timber harvests.

Department of Energy

The Administration is pleased that the Committee has included $36 million to help fulfill our commitment to the Elk Hills fund. We are also pleased by several improvements that the Committee has made relative to the House bill. These include providing roughly $140 million for the successful Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, providing significantly more support for energy efficiency programs, and preserving the existing Energy Conservation and Fossil Energy R&D accounts. The Administration would strongly oppose an amendment that may be offered to reduce funding for PNGV below the level provided by the Committee.

The Committee allowance for Energy Conservation still falls $89 million short of the Administration's request. The level provided would hamper our ability to improve industrial, building, and transportation efficiency and reduce fuel use just as we are experiencing concerns about energy supplies and prices. In addition, low-income home weatherization grants are under-funded and should be increased to the requested level.

Millennium Initiative to Save America's Treasures

The Administration objects to the Committee's decision not to fund the $30 million Presidential initiative to commemorate the Millennium by preserving the Nation's historic sites and cultural artifacts that are America's treasures. We urge the Senate to restore funding for this highly successful program.

U.S. Territory Programs

The Administration objects to the Committee's decision not to provide the full $10 million reimbursement to Guam for costs imposed upon it by the U.S. Compact of Free Association with the Micronesian nations. The territorial government is incurring significant health, education, and other costs in providing essential services to citizens of the nations living in Guam by virtue of the compact. In addition, the Administration is disappointed that the Committee has refused to support the proposed $10 million advance appropriation for the Virgin Islands. This funding would provide the fiscally hard-pressed territorial government with needed aid and an incentive to continue reforming its budget practices.

National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities

The NEA has not had a funding increase in eight years. Since 1992, NEA funding has declined by nearly 45 percent, with an even greater decline in purchasing power due to inflation. While the Administration appreciates the support demonstrated by the Committee for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), we strongly urge the Senate to provide the Administration's request for these important cultural agencies. The requested levels will enable NEA to move forward with its Challenge America program, NEH to expand its summer seminar series and Rediscover America initiative, and IMLS to move forward on digitization efforts and expanding after-school programs in museums and on-line access to museums. The Administration believes that there is strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate that would sustain further increases made to these agencies.

Smithsonian and Other Cultural Agencies

The Administration appreciates the Committee's efforts to provide funding above the House-approved levels for the Smithsonian, National Gallery of Art, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. However, the Committee's funding levels for the Smithsonian and the National Gallery are still below the President's request. The Administration seeks to preserve and protect our Nation's treasures, as well as to provide safe and continued access to the public, and will work with the Senate to fully fund the President's request for repairs and restoration activities at the Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art. We also urge the Senate to fund the new $1 million District of Columbia Arts and Education Grants Program within the Commission of Fine Arts.

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