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House Bill Aims to Protect Environment and Developers

STATES NEWS SERVICE

A plan to improve both environmental and business conditions in Southern California--including Orange County--may get $5 million from Congress if a proposal announced Wednesday passes.

The money, included in the Republican-crafted Interior Department appropriations bill for fiscal 1997, would be divided among Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.

The project in Orange County is known as the Natural Communities Conservation Planning program, or NCCP, and aims to bring conservationists, landowners and government officials together to decide how to protect 44 rare plants and animals and their habitat while guaranteeing development opportunities in other areas of the county.

Republican members of the House Interior Subcommittee used the announcement to praise their efforts to protect the environment.

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“The Clinton administration and liberals in Congress try to demonize the Republicans’ environmental record. The fact is, my colleagues and I care very much about preserving our natural resources for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren,” said Rep. Ron Packard (R-Oceanside), who participated in a news conference with other Southern California lawmakers to discuss the funding.

Packard said finding money for hometown projects is tough at a time when Congress is looking to downsize government.

Both Democrats and Republicans are clamoring for the upper hand on environmental issues in this election year.

Republicans have taken a beating over the environment this year from Democrats and conservationists.

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Stephanie Hanna, spokeswoman for the Interior Department, pointed out that Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt had asked for $6 million for the three counties, and that Republican members of Congress were trying to take credit for an idea that originated in California.

The funding underscores the federal government’s role in helping create the multi-species conservation plans, said Marc Ebbin, special assistant to Babbitt.

“We’re delighted by the committee’s action,” Ebbin said.


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