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ENVIRONMENTAL MEASURE BECOMES LAW
BUSH OKS MORATORIUM ON OFFSHORE OIL DRILLING AND SETTLEMENT IN OWL BATTLE

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BUSH OKS MORATORIUM ON OFFSHORE OIL DRILLING AND SETTLEMENT IN OWL BATTLE

President Bush signed into law Monday the most sweeping moratoriums on offshore oil drilling ever approved by Congress and a truce resolving a dispute over ancient forests and spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest.

Both the delays in offshore drilling and the settlement in the timber dispute were enacted as part of an $11.2 billion spending bill for the Interior Department and related agencies, including arts and cultural programs.The measure allows for $952 million more in spending than was approved last year, about $2.1 billion more than Bush requested.

Drawing perhaps the greatest attention to the bill was an amendment proposed by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., that would have barred federal funding of "obscene or indecent" art or artwork that violated other strictures.

Congress adopted a compromise that prohibits the funding of "obscene" material if it also lacks "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value." Such judgments are left to the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.

But the heart of the legislation is the appropriation of money to government agencies that manage logging, mining, grazing, wildlife preservation and recreation on some 700 million acres of federal land, most of it in the West.

The law funds the Energy Department's fossil fuel and conservation programs, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Smithsonian Institution.

House-Senate negotiators produced the final version of the legislation, which was approved Oct. 7.

Negotiators were nearly stymied by a continuing conflict between protecting the spotted owl and forests and preserving the Northwestern logging industry.

A compromise allows for a lower overall timber harvest, broader safeguards for the owl and greater room for legal challenges to federal timber sales.

But the agreement releases 1.1 billion board feet of national forest timber now enjoined from sale by a federal court.

In a statement, Bush said the environmental benefits of the legislation outweighed his reservations.