1994 Scorecard Vote
For more than a decade, environmentalists have been working to strengthen federal protection for the hauntingly beautiful -- and biologically unique -- desert lands of California. For years, efforts to pass a California Desert Protection Act failed in the face of opposition from the Reagan and Bush Administrations and members of California's congressional delegation.
This year, however, the presence of two new senators from California -- Dianne Feinstein (D) and Barbara Boxer (D) -- helped advance efforts to establish three new national parks and extensive new wilderness areas in the state. Together, Sens. Feinstein and Boxer introduced S. 21, the California Desert Protection Act, which enlarges the Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments and designates both as national parks. It would also create a new 1.5 million-acre Mojave National Park and designate nearly four million new acres of wilderness that would be administered by the Bureau of Land Management. During debate on the Senate floor, opponents of new parks and wilderness areas attempted to weaken the bill by amendment. Recorded votes were taken on three amendments:
Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) attempted to kill the bill by offering an amendment that would have prevented the creation of any national park, wilderness area, or wilderness study area unless the government acquired 90% of all private lands in these areas from willing sellers within ten years of enactment.
Had the Bennett amendment passed, it would have set a dangerous and potentially expensive precedent for future wilderness and park legislation: potentially, just a handful of landholders could have blocked the establishment of a national park or wilderness area. At the same time, the measure could have strained federal land agency budgets by forcing the agencies to acquire private lands at a much higher price, because of the unfair negotiating advantage the amendment would have established.
On April 12, 1994, the Senate rejected the Bennett amendment by a vote of 34 - 64. NO is the pro-environment vote.