House and Senate budget writers approved a second proposal Tuesday for funding the Department of Interior but did not restore any of the funds earlier versions would cut from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies.
Instead, a new conference committee report merely contained softened language in controversial sections dealing with issuance of mining permits on government land and with management of the new Mojave National Preserve in California.
It also contained a new amendment from Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., prohibiting National Endowment for the Arts funding of any works of art containing “religious desecration.”
The committee retained language that directs the U.S. Forest Service to open areas of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to loggers.
Conferees, who met for several hours in a packed conference room in the Capitol, did not consider restoring any of the $168 million earlier versions of the appropriations bill would cut from the $1.7 billion Bureau of Indian Affairs budget.
The reduction, which represents a nearly 10 percent decrease in the BIA’s budget from last year, has provoked outcries from Indian tribes and the Clinton administration.
In his proposed federal budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, President Clinton had called for a modest increase in BIA funding.