ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The fight to enact the Conservation and Reinvestment Act ended Thursday when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a less generous program as part of an Interior Department spending bill for the year 2001.
CARA was written largely by Alaska Rep. Don Young and Sen. Frank Murkowski.
The spending bill sets aside $12 billion over six years for House and Senate appropriations committees to spend on lands and conservation programs. Although it's not what its bipartisan backers initially wanted, the more modest measure still is described as the largest ever increase in that kind of conservation spending.
The CARA legislation, however, would have established a 15-year entitlement program that automatically doled out about $3 billion a year for parks, recreation and coastal programs.
CARA would have meant about $164 million a year for Alaska.
Under the spending bill now on its way to the White House for President Clinton's signature, how much any one state receives will depend largely upon how much congressional appropriators want to give it.
Alaska likely will do well over the next two years, however, while Sen. Sen. Ted Stevens continues serving as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Tucked into the $18.8 billion Interior Department appropriations, for example, is more than $100 million for the state.
Early in the week, it appeared there might be an orchestrated effort to defeat the Interior spending bill over its conservation funding.
CARA, which Young spent two years toiling to get through the House, was supported by some 5,000 organizations that were angered when the measure was overtaken by the more modest version brokered by Washington Rep. Norm Dicks, the senior Democrat on the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.
Young urged his House colleagues Tuesday to defeat the spending measure. Instead, it sailed through the chamber on a 348-69 vote.
On Thursday, there was virtually no hope of CARA supporters holding the spending bill hostage in the Senate. It passed that body by a vote of 83-13.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, whose state would have gotten at least $176 million from CARA, was the only member to bitterly complain about its demise.
''We will continue our fight,'' Landrieu said. ''We will be organized for next year. Although CARA voters will lose the vote today, we will come back stronger.''
But Washington Sen. Slade Gorton, Republican chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, said the Interior bill will provide much of the money that CARA supporters wanted for conservation programs, although in a way that doesn't create any new entitlement programs.
''CARA is almost $3 billion annually in entitlements for 15 years,'' Gorton said.
''Items in it were deemed to be more important than saving Social Security, education and health care. It is my view that these are utterly inappropriate for an entitlement that comes right off the top.''
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.