S 2237 -- 09/08/98
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September 8, 1998
(Senate Floor)


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

This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on S. 2237, the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 1999, as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated. Due to inadequate funding levels for priority programs and at least 24 objectionable language riders, discussed below, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill if it were presented to him as approved by the Committee.

The Administration appreciates efforts by the Senate to accommodate certain of the President's priorities within the 302(b) allocation. However, the allocation is simply insufficient to make the necessary investments in programs funded by this bill. The only way to achieve the appropriate investment level is to offset discretionary spending by using savings in other areas.

The President's FY 1999 Budget proposes levels of discretionary spending for FY 1999 that conform to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement by making savings in mandatory and other programs available to help finance this spending. In the Transportation Equity Act, Congress -- on a broad, bipartisan basis -- took similar action in approving funding for surface transportation programs together with mandatory offsets. In addition, this year, as in the past, such mandatory offsets have been approved by the House and Senate in other appropriations bills. The Administration urges the Congress to consider such mandatory proposals for other priority discretionary programs, including those funded through this bill.

The Administration's specific concerns with funding and language provisions of the Senate Committee bill are discussed below.

Departments of the Interior and Agriculture

The Administration strongly objects to inadequate funding provided by the Committee for high priority programs within these two departments, including:

  • Everglades restoration and other land acquisition funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund;

  • the Clean Water Action Plan to clean up America's ground and surface waterways;

  • the Disaster Information Network providing enhanced data to protect Americans;

  • BIA education operations and construction, the Indian Country law enforcement initiative, and the land consolidation pilot project and other trust system reforms;

  • the Endangered Species Programs, including landowner incentive grants;

  • key Forest Service natural resource protection, road maintenance and general administration programs, while increasing the timber program by $20 million; and,

  • finally, specific earmarks for many unrequested projects that would limit the land management agencies' ability to allocate funds for high priority needs.
The Administration urges the Senate to report a clean bill that does not attempt to roll back environmental protections and circumvent the public hearing process by attaching riders to appropriation bills. Unfortunately, the Committee bill contains at least 24 objectionable riders, 22 in bill language and two additional ones in report language. The Administration strongly objects to such language, including provisions that would:
  • unwisely terminate the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project in six Northwest States;

  • establish an unprecedented easement for the community of King Cove for a road and utilities across a wilderness area in Alaska in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge;

  • mandate a high timber sale level on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, regardless of environmental impacts, other resource priorities, and the ongoing public process for finalizing the Tongass Forest Plan;

  • continue to delay rules that would establish the fair market value for Federal and Indian oil leases, costing the Treasury $64 million a year in underpaid royalties;

  • delay implementation of environmental protections for hardrock mining reclamation on Federal lands;

  • institute for the first time a means-test for tribes as a basis for redistributing Tribal Priority Allocation funding;

  • amend an authorizing statute, the 1992 Elwha Act, to significantly change the congressionally approved plan for restoring Elwha River and Olympic National park and leave the National Park Service owning two non-compliant dams without the funds to remove them;

  • hinder efforts to restore endangered and threatened Pacific salmon runs in the Columbia and Snake Rivers;

  • require the Forest Service to maximize commercial wood harvesting before the agency conducts prescribed burning projects, effectively stopping most prescribed burns and endangering lives and property;

  • prohibit Grizzly Bear reintroduction into the Selway-Bitteroot area of Idaho and Montana;

  • prohibit Park Service regulation of commercial fishing in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska;

  • undermine the CFO Act and the responsibilities of USDA top management by encouraging the Forest Service to select and implement a financial computer system that is independent of the Department of Agriculture;

  • transfer the jurisdiction over the valued Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area from the Tennessee Valley Authority, where it has been successfully managed for over thirty-five years, to the U.S. Forest Service, a disruptive change that would involve additional transition costs without improving service;

  • place unnecessary limits on Federal land acquisitions in Alaska;

  • prevent the Forest Service from charging fair market value for summer vacation homes in an Idaho national forest, undermining the current effort to reappraise all such leases nationwide;

  • require the Forest Service to trade timber in return for restoration practices, an adverse precedent that could devolve into a perpetual cycle of using logging to pay for land management;

  • require unauthorized four-wheel-drive roads to be obliterated before any other type of road can be decommissioned, virtually preventing work on regular roads that pose serious environmental risks and are ready to be removed;

  • waive environmental laws and automatically extend the term of grazing leases that are undergoing review by the Bureau of Land Management even though authority already exists to protect lease holders from termination of leases undergoing review;

  • force the Forest Service to sell all Alaskan timber sales using an outdated, impracticable appraisal method that undermines the public return on national forest management;

  • prohibit the Department of the Interior from using FY 1999 funds to transfer land into trust status in Minnesota, setting a precedent for limitations on trust land acquisition; and,

  • amend, in two different provisions, the National Forest Management Act, to prohibit forest plan revisions, thus requiring continued use of inadequate and dated forest plans -- even beyond their statutory 15 year lifespan.
In addition, the Senate Committee Report includes objectionable language, including language that would:
  • require timber sale offers from national forests to be 3.8 billion board feet rather than the 3.4 billion board feet assumed in the FY 1999 Budget; and,

  • direct the National Park Service to maintain aviation access to a gravel airstrip within the Denali National Park, effectively overturning a 1997 Environmental Impact Statement calling for eventually closing the airstrip and relying on a paved airstrip 10 miles away.
Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Administration strongly objects to the Committee's cuts in land acquisition funding to protect our national parks, forests, refuges, and public lands. The Committee has provided $233 million of the $270 million requested, with Everglades land acquisition funds cut by half. This reduction in funding would prevent the Administration from making significant land acquisitions such as Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia and West Eugene Wetland in Oregon.

The Administration also objects to the Committee's continued inaction on the promised congressional release of the $362 million appropriated in FY 1998 for Federal priority land acquisitions. As requested by Congress, the Administration has submitted a list of proposed land acquisitions. In response, the Committee has not only held back the FY 1998 Title V funding but also has funded some items on the Administration's 1998 list with FY 1999 funding, resulting in critical acquisitions planned for both years being delayed or unfunded.

Millennium Program

The Administration appreciates very much the $13 million provided to the National Park Service and the Smithsonian for Millennium Program projects. We strongly urge the Senate to provide full funding with maximum flexibility and discretion for allocation in order to preserve other important cultural and historic treasures for the next millennium that are in danger of deteriorating beyond repair. Many of these projects are time-sensitive and cannot be delayed.

Department of Energy

While higher than the House Committee mark, the Senate Committee's funding level represents a highly objectionable $162 million reduction to the President's request for Energy Conservation. The Committee mark would be damaging to progress in partnerships with industry on improved industrial energy efficiency, development of more efficient autos and trucks, and designs and materials for more efficient buildings.

The President's budget requests $36 million for payment to the State of California for the Retired Teachers System associated with the sale of Elk Hills, which is not included in the Committee bill. The Administration prefers that this payment be appropriated consistent with the FY1996 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 104-106).

The Administration would like to work with the Congress to restore funding to these important Department of Energy programs as the bill moves through the process.

Indian Health Service

The Administration is concerned that the Committee bill does not include funding increases requested for the President's Race Initiative, alcohol and substance abuse initiative, and for first-year construction of the Fort Defiance Health Facility. The Administration intends to work with the Senate to fund these important initiatives within funds available for the Indian Health Service.

The Administration strongly objects to the Committee's inclusion of authorizing language, without hearings or tribal consultation, that requires contract support costs to be distributed to tribes on a pro-rata (proportional) basis.

Cultural Agencies

The Administration appreciates the Senate's support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). We urge the Senate to provide funding for NEA and NEH at the President's requested level of $136 million each and for the Institute for Museum and Library Services at the requested level of $26 million.

Likewise, the Administration appreciates the Senate's support for the other cultural agencies funded by this bill, including funding for the National Museum of the American Indian and the full request for the National Gallery of Art, the Holocaust Museum, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. However, the Administration urges the Senate to provide the full $40 million request for repair and restoration in the Smithsonian Institution and the requested funding for digitization of the Smithsonian collections.

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