THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
March 30, 1993
The Briefing Room
3:10 P.M. EST
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me start by laying down the ground rules. This is a BACKGROUND briefing. I can be identified as an administration official. You should have in your hands a package of background materials that includes: a one-page summary, the agenda, a list of the participants and some background information. If you don't have that, holler, scream, jump up, raise your hands and we'll get you one.
Q Why is it a background briefing? Who are you hiding the name from?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Because we set the rules and you don't. It's a background briefing.
Q Right. But normally they do it for foreign policy.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the idea is really just to give you folks a sense of how the conference is going to work, what's going to happen and what our intentions are.
Let's start with the basics. The conference will be Friday, April 2nd, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. There will be a logistical release that goes out either later this afternoon or tomorrow that will lay out any questions you might have about facilities and what we'll have at the convention center. I can answer some of those questions here, but they'll be answered conclusively in that release.
The Cabinet members who will be attending, as well as several other administration officials are listed in the materials we sent you. In addition to the President and the Vice President, it will include: Agriculture Secretary Espy, Interior Secretary Babbitt, Labor Secretary Reich, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, EPA Administrator Carol Browner, Deputy Director of the OMB Alice Rivlin, and Science and Technology Adviser Jack Gibbons.
You should note that two of the members of the Cabinet, Secretary Babbitt and Secretary Espy have already been out to the region. Babbitt was in Oregon and Northern California last Friday, Saturday and Sunday; Espy was in Washington and Oregon on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Secretary Reich will be going out to Seattle on Thursday and we'll have his schedule either later today or tomorrow.
Both of the Babbitt and Espy visits and the Reich visits really represent an even greater attempt to get a strong understanding of the situation out there. Espy and Babbitt visited with mill workers, they toured the forests in the area, they met with community leaders, they both met with the governors of Oregon and Washington and will report back to the President on what they saw.
On how the conference will work: The conference is essentially a series of roundtables, three separate roundtables. They are similar in format to those of you who attended the economic conference in Little Rock. At the start of each panel there will be four or five people who will make brief statements, after which the President will lead a discussion of the issues that that roundtable will discuss.
The only twist is going to come in the second roundtable, because there are really two issues we're discussing there: one, forest ecology; the second, economics and social issues. So that in the second panel, it will open with three presenters speaking to the forest ecology issues and a discussion of those issues, and then two presenters speaking to the economic and social issues, and then a discussion of those issues.
The President and the Vice President will each make an opening statement. The President will also make a closing statement. It's important to note when you look at the participant list, we made a conscious decision to include on these roundtables only people from the region. That is, there are no Washington representatives of national organizations. We want to hear from the people in the region. They're the folks who live with these problems every day and have the best and clearest understanding of them.
The participants were chosen to provide as broad and diverse a range of views as possible. We consulted widely with a number of people, both here in Washington and the region, to develop the participant list. And every group that you could possibly list has been asked for their ideas and their input, including members of Congress and elected officials.
If you want to turn to either of the agendas, the first roundtable is designed to focus on who is affected and how they're affected by the controversy and the issues surrounding the forest management. You will see on the participants list a very broad range of voices will be heard. We have a logger, we have a wife of a logger, we have environmentalists, we have community leaders. We really try to provide as broad a range of views as possible so that the Cabinet and the President and Vice President could really gain a very strong understanding of these issues.
The second panel on the ecological and economic and social assessments is really what we're referring to as kind of the expert panel, because that's where you'll find the economists and the biologists and the people who have really studied the ecological, economic and social aspects of the crisis.
The third panel is really a look forward, and it includes people who have experience and luck in doing creative and innovative things in the Northwest to create jobs, to protect the environment, and we want to get a sense of what some of those creative and new ideas are as we begin the work of crafting policy.
The conference is about listening and learning. At the end, we hope that the President and the Vice President and the Cabinet members will have a much clearer understanding of what the issues are, how people are affected and what needs to be done to solve them.
It is after the conference ends that we will begin the work of policy-making. The President and the Vice President and the administration are committed to crafting a comprehensive, long-term, balanced policy that recognizes the importance of timber and forests to the communities and jobs in the region, as well as recognizing the importance of the old growth forests, which are really a part of our national heritage that, once they're destroyed, can't be replaced.
The background materials and complete list of participants, you have. What you do not have is a list of the several hundred people who have also been invited to the Forest Conference as guests. We hope to have that list late Thursday; it should be available Friday morning.
There's one change. I apologize; there were a lot of names. I just want you to note for those who care about details: on the list of participants, Patricia Lee is listed as coming from Steamboat, Oregon. She is not; she is from a place called Ideyld Park, Oregon.
I'll open it for questions.
Q When do you expect the policy to actually come forward? When do you expect to make decisions based on this conference to formulate new regulations and new policy?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's certainly a sense of urgency on the part of the President, the Vice President and the entire Cabinet. I can't today give you an exact timeline for when we expect to have a policy proposal prepared.
Q No exact timeline, but later this year? Next year? The following year?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As soon as possible.
Q You don't know?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't today give you a date. There is a real sense of urgency and a real recognition that the status quo can't be allowed to continue.
Q Is there anything specific, outside of the White House, driving this that will force them to do something by any --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are certain court cases that are pending that obviously demand answers. But we are really working to craft long-term solutions that can deal in a balanced way with the problems facing the people and communities in that region.
Q Do you anticipate -- the court would only require a plan to protect the owl and manage the land; whereas the long-term policy would have a lot more economic implications. Would you envision that's some kind of a two-step process where you might answer the court initially, and then develop --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to speak to the solutions, because the conference is really the first step before we start talking about solutions. So it's a little premature now to talk about what we might do to try and address these issues. I think the conference is the first step to gain a much clearer and broader understanding of the issues involved, and then to begin to think about the most effective and balanced solutions possible.
Q Are you going to set up task forces after the conference to look at each area of the problem?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are now interagency groups working to organize this conference, and interagency groups working on the issues -- forest management, economic, social that are related to the conference. And I would expect that those task forces would be involved as we start the work of crafting policy.
Q How many people will this be involved in this? Dozens? Scores of them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In the policy work?
Q After the conference?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's difficult right now to assess that. Certainly, there's an important difference between the Clinton administration approach and the Bush administration approach. The Bush administration had, I think it was five or six different agencies. Each of them hooked their horse to a different side of the cart and then couldn't figure out why the cart wouldn't move forward. The President has made clear that he wants a coordinated approach with all of his agencies working together. And that is our goal.
Q You're not saying when the cart's going to get there, though.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As soon as possible.
Q The President's been criticized today by some environmental groups for apparently reversing himself on mining and grazing. I have two questions. One, how does Vice President Gore feel about this, and does this indicate how he's going to go on the timber issue?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not familiar about what you're talking about on the mining and grazing issue, so I'd want to just try and get back to you on that one. So I can't address it in the context.
Q You haven't heard about this decision?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I haven't. I'm sorry.
Q This is something that would directly affect all of the things that you and the Vice President deal with.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry, I haven't heard about it yet.
Q Is there somebody in the administration who can answer the question? I see you have some officials here.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's been no change in policy at all. Grazing fees, as you know, can be done administratively, and Secretary Babbitt has an extensive plan of hearings out in the region to craft a way to not only to raise the money, but to cycle it back into the region to wise land use management policy.
With regard to mining, there is a collaborate effort underway again to address the issue in a broader perspective, to look at issues, for example, like mining reclamation and to use some of the royalty monies that are being discussed for those kinds of projects. So there are discussions underway, but no change of policy.
Q So Senator Domenici was wrong this morning?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We can double-check on that for you.
Q The Western senators are widely touting as a victory that they've gotten Clinton to back off of the budget, putting these revenue proposals --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll check back with you on that --
Q Who is this person?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's [Named Deleted]. But, again, it's a BACKGROUND briefing. I'll check back on it and see what else I can find out.
Q You say several hundred people are invited. Is it only invited guests that are going to be allowed into this thing? Is there going to be any seating available for the general public?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Among the people -- the guests that we're talking about include what we like to think of as the general public. They represent the people from the region who have been actively involved. The convention hall only holds a certain number of people, so it becomes logistically impossible for us to simply open it up to the public.
Q Okay, but who did you issue -- what groups did you --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are issuing invitations to a broad and diverse range of groups that reflect in part the same kind of effort we made in putting together the roundtable participants. And I think you can expect to see in the people who are included as guests to the convention representatives of all kinds of different points of view: businesspeople, labor people, environmentalists, people representing local communities, tribes. It's a broad range of group, as well as local elected officials and community officials.
Q Have those invitations already gone out?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They're going out now.
Q Do you assume that whatever solution, without talking about what it is, is it going to involve legislation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There haven't been any decisions made now on whether or not it will be just an administrative solution or just a legislative solution, or both. We are going into the Forest Conference with an open mind. We want to hear from the people in the region, we want to learn from them about the problems and the pressures they face, and we want to use that information to craft policy.
Q Those invited guests -- they will not have an opportunity to ask questions or participate --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, they will not.
Q Will the press be inside in the center, or are we going to be sitting, watching a television?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The press is -- a little of both. There are accommodations for press in the convention center in a balcony above. I haven't been there, so I'm speaking from what people have told me -- in a balcony above the room where the conference itself will be held, we will be able to rotate large groups of people in and out throughout the conference. We will also have a feed, a television feed, going down into the media center which is just below the room where the convention will be held.
Q So the media center is separate from the White House Traveling Press Corps --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, as I understand they will all be in the same place. There is an enormous room right underneath the room where the conference itself will be held, and in that room we will be able to accommodate everyone.
Q Will the President be there early enough to take part in all those sessions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President will be there from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Q Just sitting there at the table, talking?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Yes, that's right.
Q Are any administration officials going to stay around afterwards and on Saturday or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, our expectation now is that they will leave after the conference. I don't have the exact travel schedules for the Cabinet members and other administration officials, but my understanding is that they will leave after the conference.
Q Is there a delivered strategy in not inviting any members of Congress to speak at this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, we have been consulting regularly with the members of Congress from the delegation. We've met and briefed them several times and, frankly, asked them to tell us what role they'd like to play. And there was a consensus from the members of Congress that it was their choice to allow President Clinton and Vice President Gore and the Cabinet to have a direct conversation with the people of the region. We will brief the members of Congress on the conference after the conference is over.
Q Will they be on the list of the 200?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't expect so. Their staff and other representatives will be included, however.
Q I understand you briefed them just an hour ago.
Q Will the Vice President be going on to Vancouver?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is no decision been made on that yet.
Q Why is that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Where's it coming from? No decision's been made.
Q Is there any reason he shouldn't go or why --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's no decision been made.
Q Are there any plans for either a press conference or after events at the end of the 4:30 p.m. --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's an open question at this point, so I don't have a yes or a no on that one.
Q At what point after this do the members of Congress get involved again? You have the process going on here. Will they be involved right away?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I'm not sure it's right to say involved again. I mean, we've consulted with them regularly throughout this process. We have, as I said, briefed them twice. I don't know that their involvement stops. They are interested -- they are deeply interested in these issues and in working with the President on a solution. They will be briefed soon after -- you know, soon after the conference when we return to Washington, and we will continue to work with them in attempting to craft a balanced, long-term policy.
Q What about the governors? Are they going to be --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The governors of Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Idaho will be attending.
Q In what capacity?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Governor Roberts will welcome the conference to Oregon and then will, as with the -- as will the other governors, will participate as a guest of the conference.
Q Will Gore actually be moderating the conference or will the President?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would -- I would look to the economic conference in Little Rock as a guide. This is the President's conference on the Forest Conference, so the Vice President will certainly be playing an active role. But I would expect the President to be acting as the principle moderator.
Q When you said the governors are there participating, are they going to be around the table --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, they will not. They will not.
Q For each different section, they only people that will be participating are the presenters and the administration people.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's right. Well no, not the presenters. I mean, understand how it will work. The conference -- the roundtable will open, the presenters will each speak for three to five minutes, and then there will be a discussion with everyone around the table; not just the presenters --
Q Just the list of people that are --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Correct. Correct. Except, of course, in the case of the second conference where I talked -- the second panel where I talked about that distinction.
Q Are you looking at this as a possible model for future resolutions to environmental problems? How can this be applied --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, I'm not sure I would apply it somewhere else. I think this is a very unique situation where there are very serious problems, where the status quo has hurt a lot of people and a lot of communities and a lot of businesses and threatens a very valuable part of our environment. And I think this was a unique situation that demanded a special solution.
Q Could you give us an idea of how much time the Vice President is -- now that he's gotten past that health care reform hearing yesterday, how much time is he devoting to this? What sort of briefings are he and the President receiving? How much time are both of them spending on this issue now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Both the President and the Vice President have been briefed on the conference. Both of them have played an active role in its development, and both are greatly interested, both in the conference and in its outcome.
Q Is Vice President Gore --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You'll have to speak up. I'm having a hard time hearing you.
Q Is it Vice President Gore's idea -- this conference?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. This conference -- President Clinton, for those of you who remember, last summer visited the region and made a commitment to people in this region that if these problems weren't addressed by the time he took office that he would hold a conference to address them. So this reflects the fulfillment of a commitment President Clinton made to the people of the region.
Q When you're done with your conference, who's going to be writing the solution? Will it be your colleague's office or Interior or Espy? How will you go about --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Office on Environmental Policy, led by Katie McGinty, was created to coordinate policy-making across the administration. But as I mentioned earlier, there is an interagency group that is working with that Office on Environmental Policy that was involved in crafting the conference and will also be involved in crafting any policy. The interagency group -- just to flesh it out a little more -- would include Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Commerce -- who did I forget? Education, EPA -- I think that's about it.
Q Will their meetings be open to the public?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, no, did I call it a task force? (Laughter.) Anybody else?
Q They're both arriving Thursday night now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, that's my understanding.
Q And are you planning any kind of like photo op --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, at this point there's nothing planned for Thursday night. But, certainly, if that changes, we'll get back to you.
Q When do they leave?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't have the time yet. I can try and find that out.
Q Where is the Chief of the Forest Service? He's not -- he doesn't seem to be on the list.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He is not participating. Again, this was an opportunity for us to hear from people who live and work in the region. They are the people who have been most directly affected. We want to learn from them.
Q Just to get this straight, the presenters will be making opening statements and then the panelists will get to participate in the discussion?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, the presenters will each make roughly three-minute statements at the beginning of each roundtable, and then the President will open a discussion among all the roundtable participants, including the presenters.
You guys are tireless.
Q Members of the northwest delegation say the Vice President has promised to have something to Congress by mid-June so that Congress could act this year.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wouldn't want to put any dates on --
Q Are they right or wrong?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wouldn't want to put any dates on when anything will or will not be delivered to Congress. There is a sense of urgency in our work, and we recognize that we need to act as soon as possible.
Q Do you know where they might have gotten that impression?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, I'm not going to put any deadlines on when we'll complete our work. There's a sense of urgency and a real recognition that things have to change.
Q Have the panelists and presenters been asked to stick strictly with timber, or would there be auxiliary issues, particularly fisheries?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We haven't instructed the panelists and the presenters in any way or told them anything except that they should speak from their hearts and from their own experience. We expect obviously a broad range of issues to be raised, and we welcome people to raise the issues that they consider to be important. We want people to speak from their hearts and we want them to speak from their experience.
Q You do anticipate, then, at some stage after the conference, whether it be months or weeks or whatever, that the administration will come out with an environmental forest policy?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q A singular forest policy that will serve as a guideline for whatever decisions --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this Forest Conference is a step toward a comprehensive longterm balanced policy that recognizes the importance of the timber and the forests to the communities and the economy and jobs in the region, but also recognizes that the old growth forests are a part of our national heritage and once those forests are gone they can't be replaced. But the goal here after the conference is to move with great urgency, but with great deliberation toward a policy -- that kind of balanced policy.
Q As opposed to peace-making?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Correct. Our goal is a long-term comprehensive balanced policy.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great, thank you.
END3:31 P.M. EST