Congress and the Clinton administration have finally called a truce on the national budget. On Nov. 19, the House and Senate approved a $385 billion spending package, including $14.9 billion for the Interior Department.
are claiming victory, but Will Hart, spokesman for Sen. Larry
Craig, R-Idaho, calls the process "frustrating." "(We were) dealing
with an administration that does not ... see resource-based
communities as important," he says.
agreed to drop several proposals, including:
rider that would have stopped the government from raising the
amount of royalties it collects from public-lands oil
* A provision that would have prevented
grizzly bear reintroduction in some Western
* A rider that would have allowed federal
officials to bypass certain plant and animal surveys on federal
lands proposed for logging in the Pacific
* A limitation on noise restrictions
at Grand Canyon National Park;
* A ban on
proposed revisions of the Bureau of Land Management's hardrock
mining regulations, known as the "3809"
The final version of the budget replaced
most of the funds cut from Clinton's Lands Legacy program earlier
in the budget negotiations, thus earmarking about $400 million for
the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands. The Land and Water
Conservation Fund also received about $40 million, which Kevin
Collins of the National Parks and Conservation Association calls "a
significant acknowledgement that this program is on its way back."
There were a few concessions on the other side
of the table, including an agreement to extend existing federal
grazing leases for 10 years while the Interior Department completes
The administration also
struck a deal on a controversial rider introduced by Sen. Craig.
The rider took aim at an Interior Department legal opinion, which
said that the 1872 Mining Law limited mine-waste dumping sites on
public lands to five acres per claim (HCN, 5/24/99). Craig's rider
would have excluded mines proposed before May 21, 1999, from the
restrictions, but a compromise measure will exempt only mines
proposed before Interior Solicitor John Leshy issued his opinion on
Nov. 7, 1997.
The impacts of the rider will
depend on the Interior Department's interpretation of the law, but
neither side is very happy with the deal. "It doesn't go as far as
we'd hoped, but it does protect the mining plans in existence,"
"Environmental protection has been
increased from this time last year," says Alan Septoff of the
Mineral Policy Center in Washington, D.C., "but proposed mines that
were grandfathered in have been rewarded for breaking the law."