September 23, 1998
The Administration strongly supports the land exchanges called for in H.R.
3381, which would mandate an exchange of Federal lands and other assets
with the Big Sky Lumber Company.
H.R. 3381 is consistent with President Clinton's goal of restoring and protecting the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The bill is complementary to the Administration's efforts to reintroduce wolves, stop mining on the borders of the Yellowstone Park, and acquire winter rangelands for wildlife. The land exchange provides an opportunity to acquire environmentally sensitive lands that are essential to conservation of wildlife habitat, including endangered species.
The U.S. Forest Service has prepared an environmental impact analysis to assess the environmental consequences of the land exchange, assess alternative means to achieve the objectives of the exchange, and involve the public in many stages of the deliberations, including scoping the environmental analysis. This Legislative Environmental Impact Statement was prepared for Congress to use in its deliberations. A result of the Legislative Environmental Impact Statement is that Congress has reformulated the preferred alternative, which is more environmentally sound than the original preferred alternative.
During the timber-for-land exchange, the bill would require that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental laws be met. While the Administration recognizes the environmental value of this land exchange and supports the consolidation of the Gallatin National Forest, section 4 of H.R. 3381 would waive the applicability of the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws for the land-for-land portion of the exchange. While the Administration acknowledges the actions thus far taken to comply with these statutes, the Administration believes that application of, and compliance with, such laws must be uniform and constant. The Administration believes a waiver of these environmental laws is unnecessary and, therefore, objects to the waiver for the land-for-land portion of the exchange. The Administration urges Congress to delete that language.
H.R. 3381 would affect direct spending; therefore, the bill is subject to the pay-as-you-go requirements of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. OMB's preliminary scoring estimate of this bill is that it would decrease direct spending by less than $1 million over FYs 1999-2003. Final scoring of this legislation may deviate from this estimate.