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CONGRESSMAN BRUCE F. VENTO
ON H.R. 4514
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1990
CHAIRMAN DELUGO, THANK YOU FOR SCHEDULING THIS HEARING ON H.R. 4514, THE "ANTARCTICA WORLD PARK AND PROTECTION ACT OF 1990," WHICH WE HAVE SPONSORED.
I APPRECIATE YOUR PROVIDING THIS OPPORTUNITY FOR WILL STEGER, OUR FELLOW MINNESOTAN, TO SHARE HIS UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE ON ANTARCTICA WITH THE SUBCOMMITTEE TODAY.
I KNOW THAT WE ALL FOLLOWED VICARIOUSLY AND WITH GREAT INTEREST AND, YES, ADMIRATION THE SEVEN-MONTH ODYSSEY OF THE TRANS-ANTARCTICA EXPEDITION, LED BY WILL STEGER, AND WERE EXCITED AND RELIEVED BY ITS SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION IN MARCH OF THIS YEAR.
IN A DRAMATIC CHRISTMAS MESSAGE TAPED WHILE CROSSING THE ANTARCTIC PLATEAU WITH THE EXPEDITION, WILL STEGER'S THOUGHTS FOCUSED ON THE FRAGILITY OF THE ANTARCTIC ENVIRONMENT WHEN HE URGED THE UNITED STATES TO TAKE THE LEADERSHIP ROLE IN PROMOTING INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION FOR THE PRESERVATION OF ANTARCTICA. AND, AS YOU KNOW, THAT IS EXACTLY THE POINT AND PURPOSE OF THE BILL WE WROTE AND ARE LEARNING MORE ABOUT TODAY.
ANTARCTICA IS INDEED A UNIQUE AND VERY SPECIAL REGION OF OUR PLANET EARTH. WITH 90 PERCENT OF EARTH'S FRESH WATER, IT IS BOTH A FRAGILE ECOSYSTEM THAT SUPPORTS DIVERSE FORMS OF LIFE, AND AN INDISPENSABLE PART OF THE ATMOSPHERIC AND OCEANOGRAPHIC SYSTEMS THAT MODERATE THE WORLD'S WEATHER AND MAINTAIN THE OVERALL HABITABILITY AND PRODUCTIVITY OF OUR PLANET.
SINCE 1961, THE ANTARCTIC TREATY HAS PROVIDED A FRAMEWORK FOR PEACEFUL AND COOPERATIVE INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITIES IN ANTARCTICA. AMERICA CAN BE PROUD OF ITS LEADERSHIP ROLE IN THE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE TREATY, AS WELL AS THE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND OTHER ACTIVITIES THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN ANTARCTIC UNDER THE TREATY.
HOWEVER, THERE IS NOW A GROWING CONCERN ABOUT THE NEED FOR NEW STEPS TO ASSURE THAT ANTARCTICA WILL REMAIN UNSPOILED AND DEDICATED TO PEACEFUL RESEARCH, ESPECIALLY SINCE THE 1988 SIGNING OF A CONVENTION ON THE REGULATION OF ANTARCTIC MINERAL RESOURCE ACTIVITIES--OR "CRAMRA"--THAT WOULD FOR THE FIRST TIME CONSTITUTE A FRAMEWORK FOR POSSIBLE MINERAL PROSPECTING AND OTHER MINERAL EXPLORATION AND MINING DEVELOPMENT ACTIONS ON THE CONTINENT OF ANTARCTICA.
I BELIEVE THAT CRAMRA WAS A MISTAKE AND A STEP IN THE WRONG DIRECTION. INSTEAD OF PUSHING FORWARD WITH IT, I WOULD COUNSEL THAT THE UNITED STATES EXERCISE LEADERSHIP TOWARD PROHIBITING MINERAL EXPLORATION AND DEVELOPMENT IN ANTARCTICA. OUR SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION TO CONTINENT ANTARCTICA'S FUTURE SHOULD BE THE UNIQUELY AMERICAN NATIONAL PARK CONCEPT, AN INITIATIVE DEVELOPED FIRST IN OUR NATION THAT HAS WON CONVERTS AROUND THE GLOBE. OUR BILL, H.R. 4514, WOULD PUT AMERICA WHERE IT SHOULD BE, IN THE
FIRST TRULY WORLD PARK.
LEADERSHIP FROM THE UNITED STATES TODAY IS ESSENTIAL. AS HUMAN ACTIVITY IN ANTARCTICA HAS INCREASED IN RECENT YEARS, ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IMPACTS HAVE ALSO GROWN.
THE NUMBER OF RESEARCH PERSONNEL STATIONED IN ANTARCTICA HAS GROWN DRAMATICALLY OVER THE PAST DECADE, AND SO HAS TOURISM. ACCOMMODATING AND SUPERVISING THESE INCREASING NUMBERS OF PEOPLE HAS BEEN A GROWING PROBLEM, ESPECIALLY CONCERNING PROTECTION OF ANTARCTICA'S ENVIRONMENT AND SENSITIVE LIFE FORMS AND AVOIDING DISRUPTIONS OF ONGOING LONG-TERM, BENCHMARK SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ACTIVITIES.
THESE CURRENT UNINTENDED ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS COULD WELL BE INSIGNIFICANT BY COMPARISON SHOULD CONTINENT ANTARCTICA BE OPENED TO WIDE-SPREAD MINERAL DEVELOPMENT. THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION MAINTAINS THAT THE CRAMRA AGREEMENT WOULD ESTABLISH A FRAMEWORK FOR REGULATING AND CONTROLLING MINER ACTIVITIES, SO AS TO REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS. BUT I BELIEVE THAT WE CAN DO BETTER. I BELIEVE THE WE CAN TAKE THE LEAD IN SEEKING AND OBTAINING INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT THAT ANTARCTICA SHOULD BE FOREVER OFF-LIMITS TO MINERAL ACTIVITIES AND CONTINUE TO BE DEDICATED TO PEACEFUL AND COOPERATIVE USES THAT ADVANCE OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORLD AND UNIVERSE, PRESERVING AND CONSERVING THIS PART OF PLANET EARTH UNIMPAIRED FOR ALL GENERATIONS TO COME.
THEREFORE, I HAVE ATTEMPTED, ALONG WITH YOU, MR. CHAIRMAN, AND OUR OTHER SPONSORS, INCLUDING MR. OBERSTAR AND CHAIRMAN UDALL, TO SHAPE A LEGISLATIVE ALTERNATIVE THAT I BELIEVE MORE FULLY RESPONDS TO THE IMPORTANCE OF ANTARCTICA AND AMERICA'S PROPER LEADERSHIP ROLE. THAT ALTERNATIVE IS EMBODIED IN THE BILL BEING CONSIDERED TODAY.
ITS CENTRAL PURPOSE IS TO ESTABLISH THAT THE POLICY OF OUR NATION WILL BE TO ACT TO PROTECT ANTARCTICA'S LANDS, WATERS, RESOURCES, AND VALUES, SO AS TO PRESERVE THEM FOR THE BENEFIT OF PRESENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS OF THE WORLD'S PEOPLE.
TOWARD THAT END, THE BILL WOULD DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, THROUGH THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, TO PREPARE AN INVENTORY OF ANTARCTICA'S WILDERNESS, CULTURAL, SCENIC, WILDLIFE, MARINE, HISTORIC, ENVIRONMENTAL, ECOLOGICAL, SCIENTIFIC, AND OTHER RESOURCES AND VALUES. THIS WOULD BE DONE SO AS TO IDENTIFY AREAS THAT SHOULD BE MANAGED TO PRESERVE UNIQUE NATURAL ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS, AREAS OF EXCEPTIONAL SCIENTIFIC INTEREST, AND OTHER ANTARCTIC REGIONS POSSESSING SPECIAL RESOURCES AND VALUES THAT MUST BE PROPERLY SAFEGUARDED. THE INVENTORY WOULD BE PREPARED IN COOPERATION WITH OTHER AGENCIES OF OUR GOVERNMENT, MEMBERS OF THE WORLDWIDE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY, AND WITH COOPERATING FOREIGN NATIONS.
BUILDING ON THE INVENTORY, THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, THROUGH THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, WOULD PREPARE A MANAGEMENT PLAN THAT WOULD BE APPROPRIATE FOR MANAGEMENT OF ANTARCTICA AS A WORLD PARK. THIS PLAN WOULD IDENTIFY AREAS APPROPRIATE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION AND INTERPRETATION, FOR TOURISM, AND FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH. IT WOULD ALSO IDENTIFY AREAS IN ANTARCTICA
NEEDING RESTORATION OR MITIGATION BECAUSE OF PAST DEGRADATION, FROM OIL SPILLS, WASTE DUMPS, OR A MYRIAD OF OTHER CAUSES.
ONCE THE PLAN WAS DEVELOPED--A PROCESS THAT WOULD INVOLVE PUBLIC PARTICIPATION--ITS PROVISIONS WOULD BECOME BINDING ON OUR GOVERNMENT AND CITIZENS. BUT EVEN BEFORE THAT THE SECRETARY OF STATE WOULD BE MANDATED TO BEGIN NEGOTIATIONS WITH OTHER NATIONS, SEEKING A COMPREHENSIVE AGREEMENT TO PROTECT ANTARCTICA FIRST BY PROHIBITING MINING AND FACILITATING WORLD PARK STATUS FOR ANTARCTICA BY MEANS OF A COMPREHENSIVE GLOBAL AGREEMENT.
IN FACT, MR. CHAIRMAN, THE UNITED STATES SHOULD BEGIN SUCH NEGOTIATIONS THIS YEAR, WHEN PARTIES TO THE ANTARCTICA TREATY HOLD AN UPCOMING MEETING IN CHILE TO DISCUSS ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES.
MEANWHILE, THE ANTARCTICA WORLD PARK AND PROTECTION ACT OF 1990 PROPOSES TO PROHIBIT ACTIVITIES BY THE UNITED STATES RELATED TO ANTARCTICA THAT ARE NOT CONSISTENT WITH THE PURPOSE ARTICULATED IN THE MEASURE THE PROTECTION OF ANTARCTICA AND THE POLICY OF PRESERVING ITS RESOURCES, VALUES, AND ENVIRONMENT FOR PRESENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS.
THE BILL WOULD IMMEDIATELY PROHIBIT ANY PROSPECTING OR MINING IN ANTARCTICA BY UNITED STATES ENTITIES, AND WOULD EXTEND TO ANTARCTICA THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION LAWS THAT GOVERN ACTIONS OF GOVERNMENT AND OTHER ENTITIES IN THE UNITED STATES.
FURTHER, THE BILL WOULD ESTABLISH THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AS A CENTRAL .CLEARINGHOUSE FOR INFORMATION ABOUT ACTIVITIES OR PROPOSALS OF OTHER NATIONS IN ANTARCTICA, SO THAT THIS INFORMATION CAN BE AVAILABLE FOR PUBLIC REVIEW AND COMMENT. IT WOULD REQUIRE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO PREPARE AN ANALYSIS AND COMMENTS REGARDING SUCH MATTERS, TO ESTABLISH A BASIS FOR OUR NATION'S POLICY AND REACTIONS TO THEM.
THE BILL WOULD BOLSTER THE EXISTING MECHANISMS ESTABLISHED UNDER THE ANTARCTIC TREATY, FOR PROTECTING THE ANTARCTIC ENVIRONMENT, BY MAKING IT MORE DIFFICULT FOR ACTIONS BY OUR GOVERNMENT OR U.S. CITIZENS TO BE EXEMPTED FROM ENVIRONMENTAL RESTRICTIONS ESTABLISHED UNDER THE TREATY MECHANISMS, AND BY REQUIRING PUBLIC AND CONGRESSIONAL INVOLVEMENT IN ANY PROPOSAL FOR SUCH EXEMPTIONS.
IN THE SAME VEIN, THE MEASURE WOULD REQUIRE CONSIDERATION OF SANCTIONS AGAINST OTHER NATIONS NOT ABIDING BY ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION MEASURES RECOMMENDED THROUGH THE TREATY MECHANISMS.
MR. CHAIRMAN, WE HAVE NO TIME FOR HALF-MEASURES IF AMERICA IS TO BE THE WORLD'S LEADER IN PROTECTING ANTARCTICA. OTHER NATIONS, INCLUDING THOSE THAT HAVE INDICATED OPPOSITION TO THE PROSPECT OF MINERAL DEVELOPMENT IN ANTARCTICA, ARE LOOKING AND WAITING FOR A STRONG SIGNAL FROM THE UNITED STATES.
NOW, IN THE YEAR WHEN WE WILL MARK THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF EARTH DAY AND JUST BEFORE THE IMPORTANT MEETING IN CHILE, IS THE TIME FOR US TO SEND A STRONG SIGNAL AND FOR OUR NATION TO TAKE THE LEAD IN PRESERVING THE LAST CONTINENTAL REGION THAT IS STILL ESSENTIALLY NATURAL.
PRISTINE CONTINENT, PERSONALLY ORGANIZING A TRULY INTERNATIONAL
IN 1990, ALL OF THE PEOPLE OF PLANET EARTH HAVE A STAKE, A HERITAGE IN THIS TRULY INTERNATIONAL CONTINENT, ANTARCTICA. ANTARCTICA DEFIES THE HISTORIC AND FLAWED CONSTRUCT OF TERRITORIAL POSSESSION OF BOUNDARIES AND RIGHTS TO THE FEW AND THE MOST POWERFUL.
RATHER THIS CONTINENT ANTARCTICA SPEAKS TO A NEW HOPE, A NEW RESPONSIBILITY, THAT ENGAGES THE BEST INSTINCTS AND KNOW HOW OF THE 21ST CENTURY A FAMILY OF NATIONS TO COOPERATING IN SHARING THE RESOURCES OF OUR PLANET.
LET US MAKE IT THE FIRST STEP IN THIS DECADE THE EVE OF A NEW CENTURY, THE FIRST STEP IN A GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CRUSADE TO PRESERVE AND CONSERVE WHAT IS POSSIBLE, TO CLEAN UP THE PROBLEMS WITHIN THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT AND PRUDENTLY UTILIZE THE RESOURCES WHICH SUSTAIN US ON PLANET EARTH.
AGAIN, THANK YOU FOR SCHEDULING THIS HEARING. I LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH YOU AND CHAIRMAN UDALL TO HELP PUT OUR COUNTRY INTO THE FRONT LINES IN THE STRUGGLE TO PROTECT ANTARCTICA.
Mr. DE LUGO. Well, thank you very much, Bruce, and I want to thank you for your leadership on this question. And let me just ask you: If Congress fails, because of the crush of business, if Congress is unable to pass your legislation, do you plan to reintroduce it in the next Congress?
Mr. V TO. Mr. Chairman, I certainly do, provided my constituents can put up with me for another 2 years.
Mr. DE LUGO. Well, if you're in any trouble, I'm going to have to move to Minnesota and vote for you, because we can't afford to lose you here. I know you've got plenty of support there.
Mr. VENTO. Mr. Chairman, I think it's important that we begin to move on it, if it's possible. I think, as I said, there are meetings taking place; there are other actions taking place. And so whatever positive support-I know it's late in the session and I'm reminded of that daily. And I understand that this issue has been referred to a number of committees. But I think if we advance it today, we would be sending a strong signal of our intent to continue and to have an impact on this policy path concerning Antarctica.
Mr. DE LUGO. Well, fine. And it's because of your initiative that we're holding this hearing today.
Let me tell you, I don't know about you people from Minnesota; you must have a breed of very tough, hardworking people out there. Because Bruce Vento and Jim Oberstar, you talk about effective and hard workers, you mean Jim-and I admire Jim. He has been down to my part of the world. He was down to Haiti. This is before he was in Congress. And I'm a great admirer of his, as I hope he knows.
He is a very effective member of the subcommittee that he has, which is the Subcommittee on Aviation, which I happen to have the honor of serving on over there at Public Works.
Also today, Jim, are you going to testify in English or French?
Mr. OBERSTAR. Whichever will serve the purpose of this legislation, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DE LUGO. Well, I know Jim is totally fluent in French.
All right. Let me recognize the gentleman from Minnesota, Mr. Oberstar.
Before I do, Bruce, when you come back I'd like to invite you to join us on the dias. OK? Thank you.
Jim, I'd like to recognize you at this time to introduce your constituent.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES L. OBERSTAR, A U.S.
REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Bob and Jaime.
Congratulations on holding this hearing. It's a great privilege to be here with you taking leadership on an issue that is of very, very great importance and one, as you hinted in your opening remarks, is a little distant from the warmth and joy of the district that you represent but, nonetheless, so critically important.
Actually your reference to Will Steger's courage and physical vigor in making the trek across Antarctica are a little misplaced. He'd been to Washington previously. And he figured out rather