1997 Scorecard Vote
During consideration of the emergency supplemental spending bill to provide financial assistance to victims of devastating spring floods in North Dakota and California (S. 672), Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) attached a "rider" (a substantive change in policy attached to a funding bill) to allow states to claim the right to build roads across national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas using a 130-year-old law known as "R.S. 2477."
Part of the 1866 Mining Act, R. S. 2477 granted road rights-of-way across public lands not reserved for other uses. It was repealed over 20 years ago, in 1976, but rights-of-way that were already established were not revoked. In 1988, claims for R.S. 2477 rights-of-way increased dramatically when Reagan Administration Department of the Interior Secretary Donald Hodel issued a policy that allowed virtually any dirt road, track, foot-path, dog sled route, minimal improvement activities such as removal of vegetation or rocks, or even section lines (one-mile squares on a map) to qualify as a road right-of-way. These claims could possibly be upgraded to paved roads or highways. More than 5,000 right-of-way claims have been made on federal lands in Utah. In Alaska, an estimated 250 claims total about 6,000 miles, in addition to the State's claims along section lines, which total almost 500,000 miles.
In January 1997, the Interior Department revoked the Hodel policy and issued a new policy, designed to expedite legitimate claims for road rights-of-way, that requires states to prove that proposed rights-of-way were historically used as significant routes for vehicles.
Senator Stevens' rider would effectively revoke the 1997 policy and reinstate the 1988 Hodel policy, opening the door to thousands of roads across parks and wildlife refuges including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and the newly created Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
During debate on S. 672 on the Senate floor, Senator Dale Bumpers (D-AR) offered an amendment to remove the "pave the parks" rider. On May 7, 1997, the Senate approved a motion by Senator Stevens to table (kill) the Bumpers amendment 51 - 49. NO is the pro-environment vote.
President Clinton vetoed the emergency supplemental spending bill on June 9, citing the "pave the parks" rider as one of his reasons for doing so. In response, Congress deleted the controversial provision, and the President signed the emergency relief bill into law on June 12, 1997.