The White House and congressional leaders reached a compromise late last week on a landmark bill that would set aside $12 billion over six years for land conservation. The program, which would be financed in part by oil royalties, would double funding to acquire new federal lands, protect sensitive ecosystems, create urban parks, and preserve historic sites. A number of enviros praised the agreement, part of a spending bill for the Interior Department, as a big breakthrough. Still, they were disappointed that Congress hasn’t passed the more sweeping Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), which would provide $3 billion a year in conservation funding; CARA was approved by the House with strong bipartisan backing but has run into trouble in the Senate from conservative Westerners. The compromise measure could still face opposition from some Western senators, but it is expected to pass Congress and be signed by President Clinton. Enviros were also pleased that Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) gave up on a rider he had attached to the Interior bill that would have prevented the federal government from even studying the possibility of breaching four dams on the lower Snake River in Washington to help salmon runs.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.