Young's conservation bill attracts Democrats

Measure needs to overcome Republican opposition before vote

Posted: Monday, February 21, 2000

ANCHORAGE - - More than half of the U.S. House has signed onto a conservation bill introduced by Alaska Rep. Don Young. But in a departure from the norm for Young, a measure with his name on it is appealing more to Democrats than to his fellow Republicans.

The list of co-sponsors of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act now number 290, up from the 127 on board in November. According to the House Resources Committee, chaired by Young, the bill is endorsed by 182 Democrats, but only 106 Republicans.

It also is supported by Vermont Rep. Bernard Sanders, an independent.

The bill would dedicate half of the federal money received from offshore oil development to coastal states. It also provides for federal purchase of environmentally sensitive lands, historic preservation, urban parks and wildlife enhancement.

Support for the legislation is heaviest among the states that would gain the most money from the bill. Alaska's share under the bill would be $167 million a year.

The measure has run into resistance from conservative Republicans, who oppose federal purchases of private property.

Young's measure has more than enough sponsors to pass the 435-member House, where the GOP holds an 11-seat majority. The problem is convincing the House leadership to bring the measure to the floor for a vote.

Resources Committee spokesman Steve Hansen said Young is not discouraged at the weaker support among Republicans.

``When it gets to the floor, there will be a lot more Republicans on the bill,'' Hansen said. ``Anytime there are 300 members supporting a bill, it's a good sign to the leadership that it is not only a good bill, but a bipartisan bill.''

But the bill's critics are using the lopsided Democratic margin in their campaign to keep it from coming to a House vote.

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