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Senate Floor: CALIFORNIA DESERT PROTECTION ACT OF 1993

  • Robert Byrd
    Person
  • John Chafee
    Person
  • Conrad Burns
    Person
  • Sam Nunn
    Person
  • Byron Dorgan
    Person
  • Joe Biden
    Person
  • Bob Dole
    Person
  • Don Nickles
    Person
  • Not Labeled
    Person
  • Wendell Ford
    Person
  • Barbara Boxer
    Person
  • J. Bennett Johnston
    Person
Unknown

Unknown
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the hour of 9:45 a.m. having arrived, the Senate will now proceed to the consideration of S. 21, which the clerk will report. 5

Unknown
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the time between now and 10 a.m. is under the control of the Senator from West Virginia [Mr. Byrd]. 11

Unknown
The Senator from West Virginia is recognized. 12

Robert Byrd

Unknown
Mr. President, how much time does the Senator need? 14

Don Nickles

Unknown
Two minutes. 16

Robert Byrd

Unknown
I yield 2 minutes. 18

Unknown
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Oklahoma is recognized for 2 minutes. 20

Don Nickles

Positive
Mr. President, I wish to compliment my colleagues for their bill, but I rise in opposition because of the position I have as ranking Republican on the Interior Appropriations Committee. 22

Don Nickles

Unknown
I am afraid that by transferring a large amount of land from BLM to the Park Service with inholdings of thousands and thousands of acres, people are going to expect the Park Service to buy them, and this is going to greatly exceed the Park Service's funding capabilities. 23

Don Nickles

Very Positive
We do not appropriate enough money to fulfill commitments that were made in past years. We have a backlog of acquisition requests from our colleagues that we have not been able to fund. The additions that are required by the California Desert bill will greatly exceed our capability to fullfill those commitments. 24

Don Nickles

Very Negative
I am concerned that we are taking action which will cause people to expect the Federal Government to purchase these inholdings, and I can just say as a person who works on the subcommittee that appropriates money for the Park Service, I do not believe the money is there, not this year, and I doubt that the money will be there in the next several years. So I am afraid we are building false expectations and putting additional burdens on the Park Service which, frankly, already has more lands than it is able to adequately maintain. 25

Don Nickles

Somewhat Positive
That bothers me. I think we should take care of the parks that we now have, and not add millions more acres. 26

Unknown
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from West Virginia is recognized. 28

Robert Byrd

Somewhat Positive
Mr. President, I thank my distinguished colleague from Oklahoma, the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of the Interior. 30

Robert Byrd

Very Positive
Mr. President, the legislation before the Senate today proposes to set aside more than 6.6 million acres of land in California as wilderness or national parks. The objective of the legislation is to protect the desert ecosystem of southern and eastern California. The worthiness of the resources of the California Desert and the need for their protection are not in question. In fact, much of the land involved in this legislation is already in Federal ownership and is already protected and managed pursuant to the California Desert protection plan developed by the Bureau of Land Management. 31

Robert Byrd

Very Positive
The two distinguished Senators from California have been very steadfast in their dedication and their commitment to further protection for the California Desert. I commend them for their effort. Senator Feinstein, who is a member of the Appropriations Committee, has worked extensively to accommodate many of the concerns of various parties interested in the future of the California Desert. 32

Robert Byrd

Somewhat Positive
However, as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and more specifically, as chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I must call attention to the potential costs of this legislation. The additional protection needs for the resources of the California Desert must be viewed in the context of the many other needs confronting the 40 different agencies that are funded by the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. These programs range all the way from resource protection, to scientific research, to health care for Indians, to arts and cultural programs. It is rare -- extremely rare -- for any of these agencies to testify before the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee that they have enough money to meet current responsibilities. 33

Robert Byrd

Neutral
In fact, overall, the major agencies funded in the Interior bill have identified a backlog of some $6 billion in maintenance and repair needs for their existing physical infrastructure. Moreover, within our existing national park boundaries, there are private lands totaling some 336,000 acres that have long been authorized for acquisition, but which have not been purchased due to funding constraints. The pending legislation would serve to increase these burdens by drawing yet another boundary within which it will be expected that the Federal Government will somehow provide the funding necessary to purchase and maintain these privately held lands. 34

Robert Byrd

Very Positive
Operational requirements in the existing parks are already suffering because appropriations are not able to keep pace with the effect of inflation, as well as the increased costs for Federal pay and retirement benefits. On top of this, Mr. President, Governmentwide staffing is expected to decrease by 272,900 full-time equivalent employees, which will affect most immediately those agencies which use temporary and seasonal employees, such as the Park Service. While these positions are often the easiest to cut, they are among the most visible in the system -- it is the work of the seasonal and temporary employees that is most noticed by visitors to the parks. These employees are the ones who conduct the tours, lead the nature hikes, staff the visitor centers, maintain the grounds, clean the restrooms, replace damaged signs, and pass out the maps. How can we ask existing parks to cut back on these types of services while at the same time establishing new parks such as those created in this bill? 35

Robert Byrd

Very Positive
All of these factors affect our existing Park System. Expanding the System will add further burdens on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee's ability to fund significant national resources, whether they be natural, cultural, or historic. The time has come for us to get realistic about our parks. We cannot expect everything to be protected and paid for 100 percent by the Federal Government. We have other national needs, as well as a huge deficit to contend with. We have to begin considering alternative means of protecting and maintaining our national treasures. Such options might include spending limits on capital development, prohibitions on land acquisition, local cost- sharing, or making the long-term operations of an area the responsibility of an appropriate non-Federal entity. 36

Robert Byrd

Very Positive
The California Desert legislation before the Senate takes none of these steps. Capital development costs are unknown, but current experience with the Park Service tells us it is likely to be expensive. Land acquisition costs vary, depending on who is doing the estimating, but range from $88 to $300 million. Operational and staffing needs, totaling in the millions of dollars, will exist in perpetuity -- once an area is designated as part of the National Park System, it is rarely removed. The Interior Department has estimated the near-term management costs to implement this legislation to be an additional $53 million. The Department claims it can cover these costs within its fiscal year 1995 budget request, but does so at the expense of the construction and land acquisition accounts that are intended to help address the existing backlog. 37

Robert Byrd

Very Positive
When an area becomes designated as a unit of the National Park System, the American public has come to expect a quality of service of which they can be proud. The visitors to our parks expect the resources for which they were established to be protected, the laws to be enforced, interpretation and education to occur, visitor services to be provided, and safety to be protected. It takes money to fulfill these objectives -- personnel in the form of biologists, hydrologists, historians, archaeologists, landscape architects; construction dollars for visitor facilities such as campgrounds, restrooms, kiosks, and interpretive displays; and equipment such as ambulances and 4-wheel- drive vehicles to aid in search and rescue missions. If we are not able to fund these needs adequately in existing park units, which we clearly are not, is it responsible for us to create new expectations by passing the legislation before the Senate, when the resources necessary to fulfill these expectations will be difficult, if not impossible, to provide in the coming years? 38

Robert Byrd

Very Positive
I realize that this legislation is going to pass this body. But, I feel that I would be somehow remiss in my duty as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee if I did not point out that there are critical competing needs in education, healthcare, transportation, and in fact, in almost every area of the Federal budget. As I have already explained, we cannot adequately maintain the parks that we now have, nor buy the lands which the authorizing committees have told us to buy. Having three new beautiful national parks would be nice. In an age when the United States enjoyed small deficits, creating those new parks would be desirable, but we, in this Chamber, have to come to grips with the realities of the age in which we live. One does not go out and buy a Cadillac when one cannot make the payments on the family Ford. One must learn to prioritize. A commitment this large is simply not appropriate in these times of desperately large deficits and so many, many pressing national needs. It is because of these concerns, and not because of a lack of appreciation about the significance of the California desert, that I must oppose S. 21. 39

Robert Byrd

Unknown
'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine; And after one hour more 'twill be eleven; And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot; And as we proceed to pass this legislation, apparently from day to day and year to year we will spend and spend, "and thereby hangs a tale." 41

Conrad Burns

Unknown
Mr. President, I rise today to voice my opposition to the California Desert bill, S. 21. I am greatly concerned by what this bill will do to already tight fiscal constraints on our National Park System and the question of private property. 43

Conrad Burns

Very Positive
S. 21 will cause further fiscal hardships on Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. These parks are already in need of repair, and we can't tighten our belts much more without jeopardizing the infrastructure and natural beauty of these parks. This bill adds 3 million new acres -- or three new Yellowstones -- to our National Park System, and I don't know how we are going to pay for the 80 million acres we already have. 44

Conrad Burns

Very Positive
I would like to give two examples. This year, I am going to attempt to secure funding for the renovation of two chalets in Glacier National Park. These chalets are historic but are not in compliance with State environmental laws. Yet, the Park Service has not added these to their priority list -- it doesn't rate high enough on their already long list. Our Nation's oldest park, Yellowstone National Park is in need of updated facilities to accommodate the growing use of the park in the winter. While millions of visitors come to the park in the summer, Yellowstone is increasingly attractive to visitors in the winter months, as well. 45

Conrad Burns

Negative
Where are we going to get the funds to pay for these new parks? To me it is simple, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks are going to suffer by the creation of these new national parks in California. 46

Conrad Burns

Very Positive
Also, I am greatly concerned about the taking of private property by this bill. While these actions may be occurring in California, it does effect Montanans. Private property rights are protected by the fifth amendment of the Constitution which states "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Yet, many laws have been encroaching further and further on this right because people in Washington do not respect or understand the importance of maintaining this right. 47

Conrad Burns

Slightly Negative
This bill places 500,000 acres of private holdings inside of Federal conservation units. This means that these private property owners will be greatly restricted on what actions they can engage in on their own land. This bill authorizes the purchase of these lands -- but that still doesn't fully protect private property rights. 48

Conrad Burns

Very Negative
Last, the cost of this bill is too high. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the acquisition of private property alone which is authorized in this bill, would cost somewhere between $100 to $500 million. The administrative and construction costs over the next 5 years would cost $36 million, and $1 million lost in offsetting receipts for fiscal years from 1995 to 1998. 49

Conrad Burns

Leans Negative
Mr. President, I cannot support this bill. I would urge my colleagues to vote against S. 21. 50

Conrad Burns

Unknown
I yield the floor. 51

Sam Nunn

Very Positive
Mr. President, I am pleased to be cosponsor of S. 21, the California Desert Protection Act. I congratulate Senator Feinstein for addressing and resolving the many issues that have been associated with protecting the California Desert. It has been a pleasure working with the Senator from California on this bill. 53

Sam Nunn

Unknown
This bill designates approximately 4 million acres of wilderness; adds 3 million acres of national park lands; designates 4 million acres of national park wilderness; adds 20,500 acres to an existing California park; and establishes a 2,040-acre Desert Lily Sanctuary. 54

Sam Nunn

Very Positive
Several years ago, when this legislation was first introduced, by former Senator Cranston, the Department of Defense and the Armed Services Committee were concerned that the creation of new park and wilderness land might impact future expansion of military training areas, or interfere with existing testing and training activities, particularly those activities involving use of the air space above the desert. Last year Senator Cranston and the members of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources began a discussion to address these concerns. Senator Feinstein continued this discussion and resolved the concerns of the Defense Department and the military services. 55

Sam Nunn

Slightly Negative
The training and testing lands of the southern California Desert are a crucial component of maintaining readiness. Key military installations in southern California include the Marine Corps Base at Twenty-Nine Palms, the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Edwards Air Force Base, China Lake Naval Weapons Center, and Ft. Irwin, the home of the Army's National Training Center. 56

Sam Nunn

Very Positive
As the U.S. military draws down its forces and closes bases and training and testing areas overseas, the training and testing lands of the southern California Desert increase in their importance to maintaining capable and ready forces. Senator Feinstein recognized the importance of the southern California Desert to military readiness. S. 21 addresses this national requirement and ensures that the military can continue to train in the southern California Desert area. 57

Sam Nunn

Very Positive
The Department of Defense and the military services are committed to training but they are equally committed to protecting and preserving the natural environment. I believe that the military's use of the desert land and the airspace above it is consistent with protecting and preserving the fragile desert ecosystems. 58

Sam Nunn

Very Positive
This is a very complex bill Mr. President. It addresses critically important issues of development and environmental protection in the very special and unique lands of the southern California Desert. I want to thank Senator Feinstein for her work on this bill and specifically in addressing the needs of the military in the southern California Desert. 59

Bob Dole

Very Positive
Mr. President, I will vote against final passage of this bill, but do so with some reservation. When considering public lands issues, the Senate has traditionally given great latitude to the two Senators from the State in which the land lies. In this instance, both Senators favor the bill. 61

Bob Dole

Positive
However, our former colleague and the current Governor of California, Pete Wilson, has serious objections to the bill. As well, all four Members of the U.S. House of Representatives who represent the area in question are opposed to the bill in its present form. I ask unanimous consent that letters from the House delegation and Governor Wilson appear at this point in the Record. 62

Bob Dole

Positive
I don't think there is much difference in opinion about whether the California Desert is a treasured national resource that deserves protection. But, as articulated by both the chairman and ranking members of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior have pointed out, we simply do not have the resources to pay for the management technique envisioned by this legislation. 63

Bob Dole

Very Positive
We have a responsibility to protect all of our natural treasures, and passing this bill will further exacerbate the lack of funds available to operate other national parks -- including Yosemite, Death Valley, and the Golden Gate National Park in San Francisco. Until we find some way to better care for the parks we have already created, it would be a mistake to create additional park lands. 64

Bob Dole

Very Positive
Therefore, Mr. President, I will vote against final passage and hope a better protection plan can be devised. 65

Joe Biden

Very Positive
I am pleased to have been a cosponsor of the California desert protection bill, which the Senate passed this morning. We have finally been able to secure lasting protection for the irreplaceable ecosystems in the desert of southern California. 102

Joe Biden

Positive
The California Desert Protection Act was first introduced in 1985. After more than 8 years of effort, the Senate vote today clears the way for establishment of the largest wilderness area ever created in the lower 48 States. The act will protect 6.4 million of the 25 million acres of the southern California desert as wilderness and national park areas. 103

Joe Biden

Very Negative
The desert teems with more than 760 species of wildlife, including bighorn sheep and the endangered desert tortoise. The topography of the desert includes giant dunes, extinct volcanoes, and more than 100,000 archeological sites. The desert is also home to a vast array of plant life, including the oldest Joshua tree forest in the country. Careless exploitation of the desert's resources can destroy what has existed for tens of thousands of years. 104

Joe Biden

Very Positive
The vital task of preserving fragile ecosystems and the biodiversity that exists within them is one of the Federal Government's most important responsibilities. The citizens and scientists, environmentalists and government officials who worked so hard for the California Desert Protection Act over the years can be proud of their perseverance in getting this wilderness area established. 105

Joe Biden

Very Positive
The California Desert Protection Act of 1993 will ensure that the remarkable assets of the California desert will be treasured by our grandchildren. It will also serve as an example of the far-sighted environmentalism that provides hope for us all. 106

Byron Dorgan

Very Positive
Mr. President, I wish to briefly note my support for this bill, and for the efforts of Senator Feinstein, the sponsor, and Senator Johnston, chairman of the committee of jurisdiction, in bringing this bill to the floor. 108

Byron Dorgan

Very Positive
Because the California Desert Protection Act will affect the costs of managing Federal lands, we in Congress must retain authority over this legislation to ensure that any commitments for future Federal costs are responsible and necessary. This was a primary concern of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee when we considered this bill. 109

Byron Dorgan

Unknown
Beyond the question of Federal costs, however, this is a California plan for public lands in that State, put together mostly by long discussions and debate among Californians. It is a plan on which former Senator Cranston of California worked with his constituents for many years to set aside some parts of that State as permanent wilderness, wildlife preserves, and public parks. 110

Byron Dorgan

Very Positive
Certainly, I understand that not all residents of California agree with this bill. However, in the main, this is a California plan for Californians, and we ought to allow Senator Feinstein and her constituents some latitude in determining the future of natural and scenic areas of their State. 111

Byron Dorgan

Very Positive
I would like to say that many of us in North Dakota are now considering ways in which we might set aside certain natural and scenic areas in our western counties, most of which are under the management of the U.S. Forest Service. Many in North Dakota want to preserve a few areas from oil exploration or other development that would disturb or mar those area. I share that desire and I hope we are able to produce a North Dakota plan, put together by a consensus of North Dakotans. I hope that this body one day will support such a plan for North Dakota if it is presented to Congress for approval. 112

Byron Dorgan

Very Positive
Thank you for this opportunity to express my support for California's wilderness plan. 113

John Chafee

Very Positive
Mr. President, I am proud to be listed as a cosponsor of the California desert bill now before us, and commend Senator Feinstein and the chairman of the Energy Committee, Senator Johnston, for their efforts to bring this measure to the floor. 115

John Chafee

Very Positive
I have long supported legislation to conserve America's landscapes. Indeed, my keen interest in this area dates back to my time as Governor of Rhode Island during the mid-1960's, when I signed into law legislation to establish an open space program in my State. 116

John Chafee

Somewhat Positive
But as the Senator from California knows, I did not sign onto this bill until about a month ago. Many had raised concerns with me about the legislation, and before I joined as a cosponsor, I wanted to make sure that I had all the facts. 117

John Chafee

Positive
One of the greatest concerns surrounding S. 21 has been its cost. As has been pointed out by many, the proposed new national parks and wilderness areas do contain some large privately owned parcels, and some have argued that acquiring those lands will be extremely expensive. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that acquiring these lands could cost anywhere between $100 and $300 million over the next 10 years. That is not an insignificant amount of money. 118

John Chafee

Unknown
However, after looking at this issue in more detail, I have learned that there are some sizable holes in the CBO estimate. First, it does not take into account the fact that the Bureau of Land Management already has in place conservation plans developed during the Reagan and Bush administrations, under which the BLM has been acquiring, and will continue to acquire land in the California desert. Indeed, according to Secretary Babbitt, the land acquisition envisioned in S. 21 is less than originally planned by the BLM. Thus, as the Secretary points out, the acquisition costs of S. 21 are not new. They have been contemplated by the BLM for some time. 119

John Chafee

Very Positive
A second point that should be made about these cost estimates is that they assume that the Federal Government will actually have to purchase every single private parcel within the boundaries established by this bill. This is a highly unlikely scenario, as a great many landowners likely will exchange their land for other nondesignated Federal parcels. Many also will be happy to keep their land and abide by the limitations that come with a park or wilderness area designation. Thus, while there is no question that the enactment of S. 21 will require new spending, it seems to me that money of the predictions about its cost have been greatly exaggerated. 120

John Chafee

Somewhat Positive
Before cosponsoring, I also wanted to know what was being done to address the concerns of those who currently use the desert in ways that would conflict with the national park or wilderness designations. I must say that I have been extremely impressed with the lengths to which Senator Feinstein has gone to accommodate those interests. She has not demagogued on this issue or tried to vilify her opponents as inflexible enemies of the environment. Instead, she has listened to their worries, and wherever possible, has modified her bill to address them. Dozens of amendments have been made to mitigate the impact of this legislation on miners, ranchers, private property owners, and off-road vehicle enthusiasts. I am satisfied that S. 21, as it now stands, is a thoroughly considered, well-balanced piece of legislation. 121

John Chafee

Very Negative
Now, the opponents of this bill, particularly the Senator from Wyoming, have argued very forcefully that the Park Service is overburdened already, that there simply are no funds available to manage these new areas or to acquire the private inholdings within their boundaries. 122

John Chafee

Very Positive
There is no question that times are very tight. Clearly, it would be ideal if there were more money to go around. But opportunities to preserve such a spectacular region as the California desert do not occur every day. It has taken 8 years to get to this point, and I believe we must take advantage of this historic opportunity while we have the chance. It may take some time before we can manage these areas in the manner in which we'd like to. But in my view, the important thing now is to take care of the designation -- to draw the boundaries around the areas we want to protect for our children and their children. 123

John Chafee

Very Positive
I can think of no instance where the Government has designated an area as a park and years later people have looked back, regretted the decision, and tried to reverse it. As we continue to develop and extract resources from the remaining open spaces in our Nation, it is important that we ensure that there will always be places where people can get away and renew their spirits, breathe fresh air, and appreciate nature's gifts. 124

John Chafee

Very Positive
Mr. President, going back to Theodore Roosevelt, the Republican party has a great tradition of conserving our Nation's valuable landscapes. This bill is in keeping with that tradition, and I look forward to its approval by the Senate. 125

Unknown
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Mathews). Under the previous order, the hour of 10 o'clock having arrived, the question occurs on passage of S. 21, as amended. On this question, the yeas and nays have been ordered, and the clerk will call the roll. 127

Robert Byrd

Unknown
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum. 129

Unknown
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. 131

Barbara Boxer

Slightly Positive
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. 135

Unknown
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. 137

Unknown
Under the previous order, the question occurs on passage of S. 21, as amended. On this question, the yeas and nays have been ordered, and the clerk will call the roll. 138

Wendell Ford

Unknown
I announce that the Senator from Delaware [Mr. Biden] is necessarily absent. 142

Wendell Ford

Negative
I also announce that the Senator from Alabama [Mr. Shelby] is absent because of illness. 143

Wendell Ford

Unknown
I further announce that, if present and voting, the Senator from Delaware [Mr. Biden] would vote "yea." 144

Positive
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber who desire to vote? 146

J. Bennett Johnston

Unknown
Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote by which the bill was passed. 693

Barbara Boxer

Unknown
I move to lay that motion on the table. 695

Barbara Boxer

Slightly Positive
The motion to lay on the table was agreed to. 696