Clinton Acts to Protect Utah Canyons Move Blocks Development of Coal Mines

Article excerpt

Siding with environmentalists in one of the nation's biggest wilderness battles, President Bill Clinton declared 1.7 million acres of southern Utah's red-rock cliffs and canyons a national monument Wednesday.

The move effectively blocks development of one of America's largest known coal reserves, to the dismay of political leaders in Utah, the nation's most Republican state.

While mining is important to the nation's economy, Clinton said, "We can't have mines everywhere, and we shouldn't have mines that threaten our national treasures." Standing at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, Clinton invoked a 90-year-old law to create the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument without congressional approval. He announced his decision near the same sp ot where President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, used the same law, the Antiquities Act, to protect the Grand Canyon from development in 1908. "We are saying very simply, our parents and grandparents saved the Grand Canyon for us," Clinton said. "Today we will save the Grand Escalante Canyons and the Kaiparowits Plateaus of Utah for our children." The area, 70 miles north of the Grand Canyon, is marked with natural arches and bridges, high cliffs of red, white and yellow sandstone, and deep canyons. Seven weeks before the election, Clinton's action delighted environmentalists but brought threats of political retaliation from Utah. Mike Matz, executive director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, called it "one of the most significant land actions that any president has done." Ken Rait, also of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said, "It was visionary in the sense that 50 years from now we'll look back on it and consider it to have been the smartest decision that could have been made." But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Clinton was declaring "war on the West." And Utah's governor, Michael Leavitt, a Republican, said the president "completely chose to ignore the process . . . (and) ignore the public trust" of people in the region. Leavitt and Utah's congressional delegation oppose the move because of economic concerns. Arizona was the third state on Clinton's six-state campaign tour, and it was the second time he visited the state in a week. No Democrat has carried Arizona since Harry Truman in 1948, but Clinton campaign officials say the president holds a narrow lead over Bob Dole. Later, Clinton flew to Seattle and addressed a huge crowd in a steady rain at the Pike Place Market. Clinton campaign officials said there were 30,000 people gathered. "Rain or shine, I came back here to ask you, will you help me build the bridge to the 21st century," Clinton said, standing hatless and without an umbrella during his half-hour speech in a steady downpour. Clinton's designation of a national monument in southern Utah covers federal land to the west of the Colorado River and to the east of Bryce Canyon National Park. …