For Immediate Release
September 15, 1999
Contact: Jesal Mehta 202-682-9400 x284 (Media)
Marybeth Beetham 202-682-9400 x231 (Program)

Senate Interior Appropriations on Floor:
Defenders Decries Latest Anti-environmental Riders, Calls for Presidential Veto

Washington D.C. - Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife said today at a Capitol Hill press conference that sneak anti-environmental riders on appropriation bills pose "the biggest legislative threat to the environment".

"This Congress is once again up to its stealth tactics. It will be remembered as the Covert Congress. If the Interior Appropriations Bill passes with the current riders, our nation’s wildlife and public lands will suffer immensely. We have seen what kind of damage these riders can do and, the conservation community will not stand for it, Defenders along with others will keep fighting the ‘green’ battle," said Schlickeisen. "If the damaging riders survive the House - Senate conference, we ask the President to use his veto pen. He has taken a stand against anti-environmental riders in the past and we call on him to do so again."

The Senate Interior Appropriations bill, currently under consideration on the Senate floor, contains at least 10 anti- environmental riders, some of which would be extremely damaging to critical wildlife conservation efforts.

One of these would undermine science-based management of National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands and the National Forest Management Act by giving the agencies sole discretion over whether to conduct wildlife population surveys when making land management decisions. Without adequate wildlife surveys and monitoring, the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management has no way of knowing what impacts logging or other management activities have on the populations of individual species or on the broader ecosystem.

Another rider attacks a critical effort to recover grizzly bears by reintroducing them into the Selway-Bitteroot ecosystem of Idaho and Montana. An initial version of the rider was stricken when the bill was brought to the floor in order to comply with the recently reinstated Senate Rule XVI, which prohibits legislating on appropriations bills. The initial version of the rider would have ensured that no bears could be reintroduced into Idaho and Montana without written consent from the governors of those states and it would have made this requirement apply forever, not just to a given fiscal year.

This rider would have created an unprecedented situation in which a U.S. Endangered Species Act program on federal lands would be regulated by the states. Before the bill is passed by the Senate, Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) is expected to offer a different version of the provision that would prohibit reintroduction of the bears in the upcoming fiscal year, thus derailing this collaborative effort by local timber, conservation, and labor interests to restore grizzly bears into Idaho and Montana. Senator Burns has been heard on many occasions to vow his intention to kill this crucial grizzly recovery effort.

A list of the latest anti-environmental riders is available, contact Jesal Mehta.