STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR BRUCE BABBITT
ON HOUSE PASSAGE OF THE CONSERVATION & REINVESTMENT ACT
This afternoon the House of Representatives passed a bill that not only promises
to become the major conservation legislation of this Congress, but also may
prove over time to be the most important bipartisan achievement of any kind
approved by the 106th Congress. Twenty or forty years from now, the importance
of other legislation may have faded, but if a strong Conservation and
Reinvestment Act (H.R. 701) is produced by this Congress, it will have left a
legacy of parks, green space, wildlife habitat, recreational and historic
treasures for future generations.
My congratulations go to those who led this effort in the House, particularly
Rep. Don Young, chairman of the Resources Committee and Rep. George Miller, the
committee's ranking Democrat. President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and I
share the hope that this Congress will seize the moment to provide permanent
funding for land protection and we are pleased that CARA complements the
Administration's Lands Legacy Initiative begun last year. Lands Legacy aims to
provide lasting benefits for all Americans in their communities as well as in
the parks and wildlands we enjoy in common. Our goal is to strengthen national,
state, and community efforts to protect wildlife, green spaces, and other
natural and historic treasures and to expand efforts at all levels to protect
ocean and coastal resources.
Although we are glad to see the House of Representatives moving toward similar
goals, the Interior Department will be watching the progress of the legislation
closely to make sure that the final product addresses several serious concerns.
First, we believe final legislation must not impose unnecessary restrictions on
federal authority to acquire and protect critical lands. Second, it should
ensure that new funding be devoted to environmental purposes. Third, in order to
avoid "train wrecks" under the Endangered Species Act, it should target
wildlife funds primarily to non-game species to help prevent them from becoming
endangered in the first place. Finally, it is critical that any new funding
stream be fully paid for within the context of a balanced budget, as is the case
with the President's Lands Legacy initiative.
Today's action in the House represents a big step toward those goals and we are
prepared to work with Congress to make them happen.
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