Babbitt Won't Suggest More Monument Lands
Hudson, Audrey, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt says he will make no more recommendations to designate Western lands as new national monuments and that he will not serve in a Gore administration.
"This may cause great celebration in the West," Mr. Babbitt said.
"Eight years is enough for one secretary of the interior, so I'm planning on shutting off the lights on Jan. 21," when President Clinton's administration comes to a close, he said.
Mr. Babbitt, 61, a former Arizona attorney general, twice-elected Arizona governor and 1988 presidential candidate, has been one of the longest-serving members of President Clinton's Cabinet.
Mr. Babbitt thought about going home and running for governor again, "but the answer is no. I think it's time to get off stage, you know, while everyone feels good about it," he said.
Mr. Babbitt also said he will not practice law. "I guess the skeptics would say, `Well, what else are you qualified to do?' I guess the answer is, `I'm going to find out.' "
On Mr. Babbitt's recommendation, Mr. Clinton has turned 4 million acres of federal and private property into nearly a dozen new or expanded national monuments since 1996. Mr. Babbitt on Friday recommended a new monument in Arizona and a major expansion of an Idaho monument.
After meeting with delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles Monday, Mr. Babbitt said his priorities now are just to finish monuments already in the works.
"The important issues are the bills now in Congress," Mr. Babbitt said. "I'm going to focus on them. There's about a half dozen, and if we can get those, it will make a big difference. . . . That's really the big agenda."
Westerners and lawmakers are critical of the numerous designations Mr. Clinton is making by using the Antiquities Act of 1906. They say the unilateral decisions are being made despite local opposition to bolster Mr. Clinton's legacy and Mr. Gore's standing with environmental voters.
"As the clock finally runs down on this administration, it is clear that they are attempting to establish some sort of legacy by locking up more and more land and resources," said Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, Idaho Republican. She said the administration is "trying to act by presidential fiat instead of with the support of the people and their representatives. …