- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2000

President Clinton yesterday used his executive power to create three new national monuments, banning mining and development on more than 1 million acres of land in the West.

"This is not about locking lands up, it is about freeing them up from the pressures of development and the threat of sprawl," he said from the rim of the Grand Canyon on a crisp, clear day.

"I know we're doing the right thing, because look at the day we've got. We've got the good Lord's stamp of approval on this great day."

In Arizona, Mr. Clinton created the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, a million-acre monument on the northwest rim of the Grand Canyon. He also created the Agua Fria National Monument, 71,000 acres some 40 miles north of Phoenix.

In California, he created the 840-mile-long California Coastal National Monument, made up of thousands of small islands and rock outcroppings stretching along the California coast from Mexico to Oregon. He also added 10,000 acres to the existing Pinnacles National Monument south of San Jose, Calif.

Local residents were unhappy with the new designations.

"We think it is totally disrespectful of the local community," said Mohave County Supervisor Carol Anderson, whose district covers the monument area.

The mayor of Fredonia, Ariz., a tiny community about 50 miles from the monument boundary, said residents resent federal mandates and are worried about effects on the ranching and timber industries.

"They'll declare this monument. They'll go home, and we'll be left to take care of it," Mayor Joy Jordan said before Mr. Clinton's declaration.

Despite criticism from Congress and state officials who contend it was a political move, the president said the monuments will "make sure more of the land that belongs to the American people will always be enjoyed by them."

"And if you look out here you see, 10,000 or 20,000 years from now, if the good Lord lets us all survive as a human race, no one will remember who set aside this land on this day. But the children will still enjoy it," said Mr. Clinton, dressed in a brown suede jacket and cowboy boots as he signed the acts at a wooden desk.

Mr. Clinton acted under the Antiquities Act, passed by Congress in 1906 and used by several presidents to protect federal lands and, in the words of the act, "objects of historic and scientific interest."

Republicans on Capitol Hill and in Arizona have been critical of the designations, calling them political efforts to boost Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign. Gov. Jane Dee Hull and seven Republican colleagues who represent the state in Congress wrote last week to urge Mr. Clinton not to act in the Grand Canyon and Agua Fria areas. The Republicans want more public input into the decision.

A spokesman for the governor said the main concern with the designation was its affect on educational funding.

About 22,000 acres of state trust land are included in the new monuments, land used in the past to raise revenue for schools, which the spokesman says has now been "rendered useless."

"The debate we were engaged in was how to protect these national wonders and still make the school trust safe for our children's future, and frankly, this federal action complicates that discussion," said Mrs. Hull's spokesman, Scott Celley.

The Republican-led Congress has also complained that Mr. Clinton is using his executive privilege to sidestep legislative approval.

"It is irresponsible that this administration has ignored the public process and has purposefully excluded Congress in a deliberate attempt to put politics before the wishes of the public," said Rep. Bob Stump, the Arizona Republican who represents the affected congressional district.

Sen. Craig Thomas, Wyoming Republican, said he would hold hearings on the issue next month.

"What the president proposes today … is another executive order devoid of public participation, partnership or broad local support," said Mr. Thomas, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources parks, historic preservation and recreation subcommittee. "Unfortunately, attempting to build a record during the final year of his presidency will mean more executive orders and federal regulations to limit access for hunting and multiple use of public resources in the West."

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and presidential candidate, was asked about the designations at a Republican debate in Michigan Monday night. He said the administration did not consult with "a single person who lives in Arizona" and created it "by fiat."

"The way you get these things done is in consultation with the people who live and work there, who love it more than any bureaucrat that lives in Washington, D.C.," Mr. McCain said.

"He's catering to the anti-recreation, extreme environmental groups," said Clark Collins, executive director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition, a group of off-road-vehicle users.

The designation came exactly 92 years after President Theodore Roosevelt declared a national monument on the land that became the core of the 1.1 million-acre Grand Canyon National Park.

Since 1996, the administration has given monument status to at least 2.9 million acres of land. The White House said with the lands protected yesterday, Mr. Clinton ranked second only to President Carter in protecting U.S. wilderness as national monuments. Mr. Carter's preservation in Alaska puts him at the top of the list.

Such designation prohibits logging, mining, and adding new grazing and water rights to the lands. It would stop hunting in the Arizona Pinnacles site, and permanently ban all off-road vehicles in both Arizona sites. It would not affect existing grazing and water rights.

The Washington Times first reported last year the administration was planning to designate the area near the Grand Canyon a national monument before the 2000 election.

Environmentalists were pleased with the administration's move and praised the president's decision.

"President Clinton surely will find a place next to Teddy Roosevelt in the conservation hall of fame," the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement.

During the 1996 election, Mr. Clinton was heavily criticized for creating the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah with critics contending he was trying to gain favor from environmentalists.

"As he did in 1996, today the president has ignored the opinions of officials and citizens most connected with the land," Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, said in a written statement.

"He has literally taken the 'public' out of 'public lands,' " Mr. Bennett said.

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