Sierra Club: The Planet--1996
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The Planet
Utah Wilds Safe for Now
But Watch Out for Runaway Omnibus

The anti-environment contingent in Congress may be down, but it's definitely not out. Expect it to come back from spring recess swinging.

Environmentalists scored a major victory in late March, when the Utah delegation's plan to open millions of acres of stunning redrock wilderness to development - and, in the process, punch holes in the 1964 Wilderness Act - bit the dust. The good news is that environmental champions in Congress refused to yield to legislative blackmail on the part of their more cynical colleagues, who hoped to get their way in the Utah wilds by holding hostage a raft of public-lands measures favored by environmentalists. The bad news is that those other measures - including one to fund California's Presidio National Park and another to protect Sterling Forest in New York and New Jersey - will have to wait for another day.

Now, the immediate threat to the environment comes from the so-called omnibus budget bill, H.R. 3019, which includes a lengthy list of potentially devastating riders - such as continuing the congressionally imposed moratorium on listing of endangered species, extending the "logging without laws" salvage provision that's now savaging the nation's forests, and opening America's largest national forest, the Tongass, to massive clearcutting. The list goes on.

Also on the horizon is a proposed revision of the Endangered Species Act - not the Young-Pombo repeal (which was so radical that Speaker Newt Gingrich has kept it from reaching the House floor), but one that environmentalists fear will still go too far in the direction of placating special interests - and action on takings and Superfund.

We'll have more on all that in the next Planet. Meanwhile, tell your representative, your senators and President Clinton: We demand a clean budget bill - no anti- environmental riders!

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