The Administration strongly supports the land exchanges called for in H.R.
3381, which would mandate an exchange of Federal lands and other assets
with the Big Sky Lumber Company.
H.R. 3381 is consistent with President Clinton's goal of restoring and
protecting the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The bill is complementary to
the Administration's efforts to reintroduce wolves, stop mining on the
borders of the Yellowstone Park, and acquire winter rangelands for
wildlife. The land exchange provides an opportunity to acquire
environmentally sensitive lands that are essential to conservation of
wildlife habitat, including endangered species.
The U.S. Forest Service has prepared an environmental impact analysis to
assess the environmental consequences of the land exchange, assess
alternative means to achieve the objectives of the exchange, and involve
the public in many stages of the deliberations, including scoping the
environmental analysis. This Legislative Environmental Impact Statement
was prepared for Congress to use in its deliberations. A result of the
Legislative Environmental Impact Statement is that Congress has
reformulated the preferred alternative, which is more environmentally sound
than the original preferred alternative.
During the timber-for-land exchange, the bill would require that the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental laws be
met. While the Administration recognizes the environmental value of this
land exchange and supports the consolidation of the Gallatin National
Forest, section 4 of H.R. 3381 would waive the applicability of the
National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws for the
land-for-land portion of the exchange. While the Administration
acknowledges the actions thus far taken to comply with these statutes, the
Administration believes that application of, and compliance with, such laws
must be uniform and constant. The Administration believes a waiver of
these environmental laws is unnecessary and, therefore, objects to the
waiver for the land-for-land portion of the exchange. The Administration
urges Congress to delete that language.
H.R. 3381 would affect direct spending; therefore, the bill is subject to
the pay-as-you-go requirements of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of
1990. OMB's preliminary scoring estimate of this bill is that it would
decrease direct spending by less than $1 million over FYs 1999-2003. Final
scoring of this legislation may deviate from this estimate.