- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt is asking President Bush to use his executive power and designate a colorful stretch of desert canyons as a national monument.
Mr. Leavitt and local lawmakers are seeking to protect 620,000 acres of the San Rafael Swell, once used as a hideaway by Butch Cassidy.
Unlike the contentious designation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument by President Clinton during his 1996 re-election campaign, state lawmakers say residents support the measure.
"This is coming from the people there," said state Senate President Ed Mansell, a Republican. "It's not the East Coast establishment coming in and telling us what to do."
Western legislators were outraged when Mr. Clinton declared 1.7 million acres of canyon land as a national monument to block mining in the world's second-largest low-sulfur coal reserve.
The announcement came without any input from federal, state, or local government officials, who unsuccessfully tried to overturn the order through Congress.
Adding insult to injury, locals felt, Mr. Clinton made the announcement not in Utah, but in the Arizona Grand Canyon two months before his re-election. Mr. Leavitt called the move a "land grab."
Mr. Bush also criticized the Clinton administration for creating 11 monuments without any local input during his last year in office. Western lawmakers called the designations a political move to boost then-Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign.
The decision to seek monument designation for the San Rafael Swell came after years of discussion and public meetings at the local, state and national levels, Mr. Leavitt said.
The area is rich in geologic and paleontological resources, and contains the most concentrated collection of Jurassic dinosaur bones yet found. Tourism planners hope the combination of breathtaking scenery and Western history will attract more visitors, providing an economic boost to the area.
Once the paperwork reaches Washington, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton will have 90 days to consider the proposal and gather public comment before making a recommendation to Mr. Bush.
House Resources Chairman James V. Hansen, Utah Republican, praised the recommendation and the manner in which it was made.
"This proposal is the prototype for how national monuments should be created," Mr. Hansen said. Mr. Clinton's monument and Mr. Bush's proposed monument will "stand as testimony to the evolution of environmental politics."
The endless miles of sagebrush in Escalante "will represent the Clinton era of governance behind closed doors and the undue influence of the environmental lobby," Mr. Hansen said.
A San Rafael Swell National Monument would reflect Mr. Bush's "inclusive style and his sensitivity to Western values and the wishes of rural citizens and local leaders."
"I can't think of two more graphic illustrations of how these two men view and treat the West," Mr. Hansen said.
This article is based in part on wire-service reports

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide