APPROPRIATIONS

The FY 06 congressional appropriations process has been underway, with the House and Senate moving rapidly to report out bills, since the judicial filibuster issue was resolved, (which left William Myers on the sidelines in his bid for the Ninth Circuit Court).

With the basic appropriation outline largely in place, it’s clear this fiscal year will continue to be challenging.

*Northwest funding requests have been far from fulfilled, and additional funding increases through conference will be hard to achieve. Appropriations are flat to declining, reflecting serious budget problems and lack of priority for Indian and natural resource/environmental programs. Senate comments about hatchery rehabilitation suggest a long term “buy-in” to hatchery rehabilitation funding (probably not until next fiscal year). Discussions continue with Congressman Dicks and Senator Murray on building TFW/Forest and Fish into the tribal base. Senators diverged from the House bill by allocating the 32 percent bump. The total amount is $48.9 billion. Of that, $48.6 billion is discretionary spending ($884 million, or 2 percent more than the current fiscal year and $1.7 billion, or 4 percent more than requested by Bush). The House passed a $57 billion bill for CJS spending to provide $3.38 billion for NOAA. Senate funds for Pacific salmon recovery and conservation programs (through NOAA) are more in line with Bush’s budget request of $90 million than the House level of $50 million. Funds for ocean research and fishery management programs also are expected to receive more funds from the Senate.

The Senate is considering the FY 2006 Interior spending bill (HR 2361). Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, has threatened to impede passage of the bill in a move to support logging roads in the Tongass National Forest. The $26.3 billion measure would fund Interior agencies, the EPA, Indian programs, and arts and cultural programs. Even with the dispute, Senate leaders hope it, the first fiscal 2006 appropriations measure on the Senate floor this year, would move forward quickly. Stevens was upset by an amendment by John E. Sununu, R-NH, to bar the use of public funds by the National Forest Service to build log roads. Stevens went on the attack because the amendment would apply only to Alaska. More than a dozen other amendments also await a resolution before a final vote on the bill.

The Senate is expected to move to Homeland Security next (HR 2360) and then the Energy-Water (HR 2419) and Legislative Branch (HR 2985). However, a conference deal on a surface transportation reauthorization bill (HR 3) could disrupt that schedule, as lawmakers want to clear the measure before the July 4 recess. Senate Appropriations approved its versions of the Agriculture spending bill (HR 2744), and the CJS bill (HR 2862). “It’s our intention to complete action on the remaining bills before the August recess,” Cochran said.

The conference committee will likely meet in mid-July. If not, it would be September.

*Following are some of the Northwest appropriations numbers as they currently exist: The I&E Budget–Bureau of Indian Affairs (TFW/FFR House = $2.75m; Mass Marking House = $1m, Hatchery Rehabilitation, Senate = $210,000); USFWS (Hatchery Implementation House = $500,000 LLTK/HSRG; Tribal/State Wildlife Grants House = $65m/6m for tribes, Senate = $72m/6m for tribes; LO Incentive Program House = $24,000, Senate = $25m); SSCJ (NOAA Fisheries Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery House = $50m, Senate CSFR= $90m).

ENERGY BILL PASSES SENATE

The Senate has passed its version of the Bush Energy Bill (HR 6) and it’s headed for Conference. Senator Maria Cantwell has said it’s not perfect, but a good start. Many Northwest tribes have opposed it, with the exception of some select elements. “As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, I have been working hard on this legislation and am pleased that it contains a number of important provisions for Washington state,” said Cantwell. She said it would protect consumer interests against the greed of companies like Enron, safeguard the Northwest’s historic system of cost-based power, and expand federal support for biofuels so our farmers can produce a clean and affordable alternative to foreign oil. It also has a number of additional provisions that will increase renewable electricity production in our region, support research and development efforts at our universities and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, provide incentives to update our energy grid with new technologies to make it more reliable, and make the American economy more energy efficient.

“That does not mean I agree with all of the elements of the Senate bill,” she said. She cited a provision that would require an ‘inventory’ of oil and natural gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf and expressed fear that it could someday open the door to coastal drilling in fragile marine ecosystems that have been protected since President George H.W. Bush established drilling moratoria in these areas. She said she will continue to fight this provision. She also said the bill falls short of addressing America’s increasing dependence on foreign oil and the emerging threat posed by global climate change.

“But despite its flaws, I believe the Senate’s energy bill – as a whole – is a modest start toward curing our nation’s energy woes, and it’s a whole lot better than the version passed by the House of Representatives,” she said. ” It does not contain the special interest deals and environmental rollbacks that have become the hallmark of the House bill, which would let groundwater polluters off the hook for clean-up, grant later-day Enrons a license to steal, and provide certain energy interests exemptions from the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. When the Senate passes its energy legislation this week, it’s clear we will still have a lot of work to do to put our nation on the right path, away from over-dependence on foreign oil and toward an energy future that will power our economy into the next century,” she said.

“PROPERTY RIGHTS WRONGED”

Following is an excerpt from a statement issued by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-CA, chairman of the House Committee on Resources (and author of This Land is Our Land: How to End the War on Private Property, following the recent Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London which essentially provided for eminent domain based on business objectives.
“While the full breadth of this decision’s consequences may not be fully realized for some time, I am sure the Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves as we approach this Independence Day weekend. In and as a result of our great struggle to win independence, our forefathers realized that private property – indeed owning the fruits of one’s labor – was so inextricably linked to freedom that they sought its protection in the Constitution. Property rights are the heart of individual freedom and the foundation for all other civil rights guaranteed to Americans by that document. Both are designed to protect the weak from the strong. Without the freedom to acquire, possess and defend property, all other guaranteed rights are merely words on a page.” The entire statement has been distributed to all tribes.

NMFS PROPOSES TOSSING DEPLETED STOCKS STANDARDS

The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed dumping its 10-year standard for rebuilding depleted fish stocks as part of an overhaul of fisheries management rules. The proposal would change guidance on rules for over-fishing/rebuilding depleted fish stocks under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As is, federal fisheries management councils develop plans to rebuild over-fished stocks in a decade, but the proposal would vary rebuilding times by species. The intent is more science-based management/quicker recovery times for most species. Environmentalists say the proposal would gut fisheries protection by allowing more over-fishing of already stressed stocks. The public comment period on the proposal is open until Aug. 22.

NOAA ANNOUNCES HATCHERY/DELISTING POLICIES

NOAA Fisheries has issued a final policy for considering hatchery fish in making ESA listing determinations. The agency also made a final listing decision for 16 salmon populations while deferring eleven others for six months for further scientific review. The new policy is part of NOAA’s response to a court ruling in 2001 directing the agency to consider hatchery fish in ESA listings. Under the policy, hatchery fish will be included in determining listing status in the context of their contribution to conserving natural self-sustaining populations, and will be listed if it is determined that the species as a whole warrants ESA protections. After reviewing over 20,000 public comments, the agency revised the policy, first introduced last year, to emphasize the importance of natural spawning to species’ health and to clarify the contribution hatcheries can make to population health. NOAA Fisheries Service also announced its final decision to retain the listings of 15 Pacific salmon populations, and to add lower Columbia coho as a threatened species. In addition, the central California coast coho was changed from “”threatened”” to “”endangered”” status, which better reflects California’s endangered listing under state law.

AG SECRETARY ANNOUNCES FARM BILL FORUM

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced the first Farm Bill Forum and the topics on which the U.S.
Department of Agriculture will be seeking input from America’s farmers, ranchers and rural residents regarding the development of the 2007 Farm Bill. The first Farm Bill Forum will be held in Nashville, Tenn. on July 7. In addition to accommodating approximately 300 in the audience, the forum also will accept calls from across the nation. Throughout 2005, Johanns and other senior USDA officials will participate in the Farm Bill Forums that will be held across the country. The dates, locations and times of the forums will be announced as they are scheduled and be available on the USDA website at http://www.usda.gov/farmbill. The public will be invited to attend the forums and to present oral comments. Among others, topics identified to provide a framework for the forums includes, “How can farm policy best achieve conservation and environmental goals?”

BUSH PUSHES OFFSHORE FISH CULTIVATION

The Bush administration released legislation recently that would regulate the cultivation of fish in offshore federal waters even as House and Senate lawmakers continue to craft their own bills to revamp other aspects of ocean policy. The White House proposal is a response to last year’s U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy report, which recommended the administration develop comprehensive permitting and regulations to oversee the aquaculture. NOAA Director Conrad Lautenbacher said fisheries experts are beginning to look more toward ocean aquaculture to provide seafood for consumption, as well as a means to replenish and restore wild populations of marine shellfish and finfish. NOAA-developed aquaculture technology has created a $100 million annual seafood business. The draft plan seeks to increase fish farming five-fold by 2025 by developing regulations that would allow farming in federal waters and add new species like cod, halibut and tuna to those currently allowed. Under the proposal, federal waters would be divided into privatized zones with 10-year renewable leases — a significant departure from current regulations, which confine fish farming to near-shore state waters.

OTHER OCEAN LEGISLATION

Legislative proposals have been introduced in the House to protect and restore ocean health. The bill, called the Oceans Conservation, Education, and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act (OCEANS-21), is from Reps. Sam Farr, D-CA, Curt Weldon, R-PA and Tom Allen, D-ME. Meantime, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, is introducing her own ocean protection act. The legislative announcements came as ocean researchers and representatives from universities, environmental and industry groups convened for the 5th Annual “”Oceans Week”” on Capitol Hill in June, an effort to increase federal awareness of the oceans. Forums were held on aquaculture, marine transportation, prediction and preparation for natural disasters, restoration of wetlands and oceans and human health. Lori Arguelles, executive director of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said the forum is part of an ever-growing interest in oceans issues on Capitol Hill, since the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy released its report last year. “”The drumbeat is getting louder and louder,”” he said.

SENATOR MURRAY SECURES FUNDING FOR SPARTINA GRASS

Sen. Patty Murray recently secured $1.4 million for the control of Spartina grass in the Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Spartina grass is a non-native plant that has invaded salt marshes and areas exposed during low tide in Willapa Bay. In recent years, Willapa has been one of the nation’s top ten “”Hot Spots”” for invasive species. This is the fourth year Sen. Murray has secured federal dollars to help fight Spartina infestations in Willapa Bay.

NATIVE AMERICAN LEADERS JOIN TO DELIVER TRUST REFORM PRINCIPLES

Tribal leaders recently joined Eloise Cobell of the Cobell v. Norton in presenting Trust Reform principles to Congress. The principles will hopefully provide the basis of legislation to resolve the 9-year court battle over the federal government’s admitted failure to account for trust funds held for Native Americans, and reform the trust management system that continues to plague tribes and tribal members who own cattle, timber, crops, oil & gas and other resources. (The trust funds belong to about 500,000 tribal members, money the government received for the proceeds from sales and leases of resources from their lands). The principles also set out standards for tribal and individual trust management. NCAI President Tex Hall and Jim Gray, chairman of the Inter-Tribal Monitoring Association, along with Elouise Cobell, led a national work group of tribal leaders, organizations, and individuals who collectively drafted the principles. The message: Indian Country stands in unity behind the principles, which demand needed accountability, enforceable legal standards, and fairness from the government in exchange for ending the historic court battle. Sens McCain and Dorgan and Reps. Pombo and Rahall, asked tribes to speak with a unified voice and provide principles to guide legislation for a prompt and fair resolution of the trust issue. The resolutions are posted on the NCAI website at www.ncai.org.

SCIA HEARS ‘TALE OF BETRAYAL”

Embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff was an avatar of greed and contempt who betrayed his friends and associates, says Sen. John McCain, R-AR. McCain, presiding over the third of four scheduled hearings by the Indian Affairs Committee on Abramoff’s questionable business dealings with Indian tribes involved with gambling, turned the spotlight on Abramoff client the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, which he represented from 1995 to 2004. “Today’s hearing is about more than contempt, even more than greed,” McCain said. “It is simple and sadly a tale of betrayal.” McCain traced the trail of money from the Choctaws’ coffers to a private company controlled by Abramoff, a private Jewish school founded by Abramoff and even paramilitary groups in Israel. According to an e-mail released at the hearing, Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon charged the Choctaw tribe $7.7 million in 2001 for public affairs and grassroots lobbying. Although the tribe was led to believe it was paying for “professional services” performed as part of Scanlon’s public-relations duties, half of the money went to a company controlled by Scanlon, Capitol Campaign Strategies; $50,000 went to repay a personal loan Abramoff incurred during his days as a filmmaker; and the remaining $450,000 was a donation to a charity controlled by Abramoff, the Capital Athletic Foundation.

MURRAY FIGHTS FOR OIL SPILL PREVENTION FUNDS

Last October, when a mystery oil spill spoiled Puget Sound’s Dalco Passage, and the responsible party could not be immediately identified, the cleanup was completed with emergency funds from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. As it was, the spill affected hundreds of miles of sensitive shoreline in the Puget Sound, but had emergency cleanup funds not been available, the damage would have been much worse, says Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA.

“We need to make sure that the same resources are there if, regrettably, there are additional spills in our state’s beloved coastal waters. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard predicts that the Trust Fund will run out of money in 2009, unless action is taken. That’s why I joined the leaders of the Senate’s Commerce Committee to introduce legislation that will permanently ensure the availability of these funds and prevent future oil spills from ruining the economies and environments of our coastal communities,” said Murray. “The oil spill fund is like an insurance policy for the Puget Sound,” she said. “Without it, we have no safety net for our waters and surrounding wildlife.” Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

ICE AGE TRAIL GETS SENATE HEARING

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently held a hearing on legislation to establish an Ice Age Floods National Geological Trail through portions of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The Ice Age Floods fundamentally changed the geography and way of life in the Pacific Northwest, leaving coulees, buttes, boulder fields, lakes, ridges and gravel bars that define the landscape today. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Murray, would create a trail that that includes interpretive centers, signs and markers, exhibits, waysides and roadside pullouts to tell the story of the floods. The trail has strong local support, and would provide hands-on educational opportunities, spur tourism and economic development, and create jobs for Washingtonians, she said.