Congress Runs from Administration Policies

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   July 21, 2003
Contact:   Andrea Keller, National Parks Conservation Association, 202-454-3332


Congress Runs from Administration Policies

Washington, D.C. - The Department of Interior spending bill passed the House of Representatives late yesterday that slows the White House’s aggressive outsourcing plans while delivering a clear rebuke to the administration’s anti-park policies.

“This is an enormous victory for national parks and for millions of park visitors, and we must ensure it’s not a fleeting one,” said Thomas Kiernan, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) president. “This is a clear message that Congress has concerns about many of this administration’s policies.”

Administration allies were forced to withdraw an amendment that would have struck language from the bill that seeks to halt the administration’s plan until Congress can determine the costs and implications to the national parks.

Additionally, by a vote of 362 to 57, the House overwhelmingly passed an amendment by Representatives Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.) and F. Allen Boyd, Jr. (D-Fla.) to exempt the Park Service’s Midwest and Southeast archaeology centers from the administration’s plan.

“Not only did the House prohibit additional attempts at outsourcing during the coming year, despite the threat of a presidential veto,” Kiernan added, “but they went even further by passing the Bereuter amendment to protect the Park Service’s archaeological mission.”

In a further demonstration of unease about the administration’s policies, a bipartisan measure to turn back the administration’s plan to allow snowmobiles to spoil the Yellowstone winter resulted in a tie vote, 210-210. A last-minute vote switch by a member of the Republican Leadership resulted in the amendment’s defeat.

The snowmobile amendment, co-sponsored by Representatives Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), and Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.), would have enacted the Park Service regulation designed to protect the visitors, staff, wildlife, and air in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Public comments have supported by a margin of 4-to-1 the original National Park Service ban on snowmobiles in the park. The National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency determined this year that ending snowmobile use would provide the best protection for Yellowstone and the health of its staff and visitors.

“A majority of western members of the House voted to protect Yellowstone. This should provide enormous encouragement to the overwhelming majority of Americans who have sought to rid the Yellowstone winter of the whine of snowmobiles, particularly as the administration prepares to take yet another round of public comment on its proposed regulation,” Kiernan added.

In addition to support from a majority of members of Congress from Western states, 26 Republicans joined 184 Democrats in voting for the amendment. This August and September, the administration will take a last round of public comment on its final rule, which gives the public another chance to demonstrate its overwhelming opposition to continued snowmobile use in Yellowstone.

In another important development for the national parks, virtually the entire Republican caucus voted to reject the administration’s overreaching policy that allows land giveaways in national parks through a device known as a “disclaimer of interest.” Despite a more protective amendment offered by Representative Mark Udall, (D-Co.), the House passed a measure by Representative Charles Taylor (R-N.C.) that rejected the administration’s “disclaimer” policy as it relates directly to national parks.

“In passing the Taylor amendment,” said Kiernan, “Congress acknowledged that the administration’s original policies pose so serious a threat that it was necessary to stand up for our parks. The Senate and Conferees to be at least as protective as the House in the coming weeks as this legislation is finalized.”

In an unfortunate development for the national parks, the House turned back an effort by Representative Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) that would have halted for one year the use of funds by the Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service to kill bison within Yellowstone National Park and on adjacent federal lands.

“When presidential administrations fail their stewardship responsibility to our national treasures, Congress must step in to preserve them for future generations,” said Kiernan.

NPCA recently gave the Bush administration a D-minus for its overall national parks record, which includes the actions and policies mentioned above. For a copy of the complete assessment, which includes the methodology used for grading current and future administrations, visit www.npca.org/reportcard.

Votes on these amendments may be among those included in the overall score for NPCA’s biennial Friends of the National Parks Award for members of the 108th Congress.

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