Conservationists won a key tactical test yesterday as a House Interior Subcommittee began writing a sweeping Alaska land bill.
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) was on the losing date and he predicted to reporters that the legislation will not clear Congress without major concessions by conservationists.
Young said he was prepared to delay the subcommittee work as long as possible by offering more than 60 amendments to the subcommittee draft bill in an effort to make the legislation reflect his views.
Young gave his qualified support to a comprehensive lands proposal of Rep. Lloyd Meeds (M-Wash.) which would have added 80 millions acres of federal holdings in Alaska to the national park, wildlife refuge, scenic river and forest systems.
A bill developed by the staff of the Alaska Lands Subcommittee under the direction of its chairman Rep. John F. Seiberling (D-Ohio), would add 102 million acres to the federal conservative systems.
he test was whether to use the Meeds proposal or the subcommittee bill - favored by conservationists - as the basic legislation for the subcommittee's drafting work over the next several weeks.
By 10 to 7 subcommittee members chose the subcommittee bill.
THe vote was a tactical victory because Meeds, Young and others wishing to change the basic draft now must win scores of votes on amendments concerning park and refuge boundaries and provision regarding state and native rights and development of potential minerals and petroleum reserves.
Also, under House rules an amendment loses on a tie vote bonus to the supporters of the basic bill in considering each amendment.
Seibeberling intends to move a package of amendments that would pare the additions to the conservation system by 2.5 million acres.
Rep. Morris Udall (D-Ariz), an author of the working draft, said he is prepared to accept several of the proposals made by Meeds. He did not elaborate.
Meeds said the subcommittee bill would lock up too much prime resource land in the federal conservation systems. Alaska's economic development wold be unduly restricted, he said.