THE INTERIOR Department appropriations bill is back before the Senate. The usual clutch of riders, meant to vitiate by the back door environmental laws that the sponsors can't defeat head-on, are either already in the bill or likely to be offered on the floor. The House bill also contains some, although fewer.
The administration rightly has threatened a veto if they remain in the bill. It has sometimes failed to carry out such threats in the past; this time it ought to try not bending. The riders are bad policy. One, which the Senate already has voted to keep in the bill, would allow mining companies to create much larger waste dumps on federal land than the department thinks current law allows. Among other effects, the dumps tend to poison water supplies.
Other provisions would require rollovers of grazing permits without environmental review; waive a requirement that the government study effects on wildlife before taking major actions on forest and other federal land; delay revisions of forest management plans, whose likely effect would be to permit less logging; and delay, again, a scheduled increase in royalties on oil pumped from federal land.
A forest funding fight is likely as well. Sens. Richard Bryan, Peter Fitzgerald and others want to shift some money from support for logging to support for conservation. It ought to happen. Logging needs to be made the exception on the national forests, not the rule. Loggers need to be made to meet a higher standard of justification than they have in the past. The amendment tilts policy in the right direction.