OCTOBER 1996

 

OCTOBER 1996 FULL ISSUE

BOOK EXCERPT: TREE HUGGERS

By KATHIE DURBIN

On Nov. 8, 1994, the world changed. Republicans took back the U.S. Senate, and for the first time since the Great Depression, gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Within days of the stunning upset, rumors of plans to roll back 20 years of federal environmental legislation were coming from all directions. Leadership of congressional committees overseeing the nation's air, water and public lands had passed from sympathetic Democrats to hostile Republicans. Friendly congressional staffers who had given environmental lobbyists access to the workings of House committees, began getting layoff notices as House Speaker­designate Newt Gingrich announced deep cuts in congressional office budgets. Overnight, green Democrats like Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative George Miller of California were out of the loop.

Environmentalists' most rabid adversaries in Congress were about to grab the reins of key natural resource committees. Republican Senator Frank Murkowski of Alaska would become chairman of the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Republican senator Larry Craig of Idaho would chair Murkowski’s Forestry Subcommittee. Republican Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon would take the reins of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. And Republican Representative Don Young would take over as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committce. In case anyone doubted his intent, Young promptly deleted the word "Natural" from the committee's name.

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Paul Koberstein