NPCA Stifles Anti-Park Bills.
WASHINGTON, D.C.--In the final days of the 105th Congress, the president's FY 1999 spending bill and the Omnibus National Parks and Public Lands Act became fair game for back-door anti-environmental add-ons, attached at the last minute and difficult to remove.
But the financial outcome for the president's spending bill was relatively positive this year. The bill totaled $14.1 billion for Interior, which includes approximately $1.3 billion for national park operations. It provides $46.2 million toward Park Service recreation and preservation programs and allocates $638 million to Park Service maintenance and construction projects. The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund earmarks $147.4 million for acquiring endangered natural areas.
NPCA rallied to help remove several last-minute provisions from the appropriations bill that would have been detrimental to park resources, management, or the visitor experience. A provision that would have allowed helicopters to land unregulated in Alaska's wilderness areas was defeated by NPCA, as was another add-on that encouraged the Park Service to study the feasibility of a new "jet-capable" runway near the entrance to Denali National Park.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) sponsored a provision to strip parts of Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia of their protection under the Wilderness Act. Although this provision was ultimately dropped from the bill, the future of the island's wilderness remains uncertain and under negotiation. Kingston may resurrect a proposed land exchange on the island that would place federal property in private hands and establish a permanent enclave of family owners amidst potential wilderness.
In addition to the president's spending bill, the Omnibus National Parks and Public Lands Act, introduced by Rep. Jim Hansen (R-Utah), contained its own share of environmentally disastrous attachments. NPCA helped force the House to reject the unacceptable bill by a vote of 302 to 123, giving environmentalists their largest vote total on a contested issue in the 105th Congress.
The unwieldy bill comprised more than 20 objectionable provisions affecting parks and public lands around the country. Some measures were struck from the bill before it came to the House floor for a vote, such as an amendment that would have weakened the president's authority to declare national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906. The act has been used to establish such outstanding national parks as Grand Canyon, Glacier Bay, Death Valley, and Statue of Liberty National Monument. President Clinton recently used the act to set aside Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.