1982 Scorecard Vote
The vote is on the Young (R-AK) amendment to the Wilderness Protection Act (H.R. 6542), to permit the surface use of explosives for seismic exploration for minerals in wilderness areas, and in areas being considered for wilderness designation by Congress. The Wilderness Protection Act banned drilling for oil, gas and most minerals in wilderness areas permanently, and banned such activities in "wilderness study areas" until such time as Congress decided otherwise. The Young amendment would have allowed serious mineral exploration in these areas, with the obvious intention of creating economic and political pressure for granting mineral leases wherever valuable deposits were found.
Only 1% of the land in the lower 48 states is wilderness, most of it in the West (mineral leasing in Alaska was not covered by this bill). Mineral leasing is permitted on 94% of America's public lands, and only an estimated 3% of the nation's undiscovered oil and gas lies beneath lands covered by this bill. Technically, the original Wilderness Protection Act did not forbid drilling leases in wilderness areas until January 1, 1984, but no Interior Secretary ever considered such leases until James Watt came to office. When Watt granted drilling rights in the El Capitan Wilderness in New Mexico and indicated that more leases would follow, there was such a public outcry that Watt backed off and said he would postpone leasing until the end of 1982. But in the meantime, the Interior Department got ready to process 1,000 leasing applications covering 3 million acres. In response, the House overwhelmingly supported the Wilderness Protection Act. Environmentalists were joined by some pro-Watt Congressmen under pressure from constituents who didn't want their hunting, fishing and recreational areas disturbed. Young amendment rejected 115-281; August 12, 1982. NO is the pro-environmental vote. This Act never came to the Senate floor, but its provisions were attached to the fiscal 1983 Interior Appropriations bill, which expires in September. Thus Watt will have the last 3 months in 1983 for leasing unless Congress blocks him.