GOP Likely to Undo Clinton Land Legacy
Richardson, Valerie, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
DENVER - President Clinton has rushed to create an environmental legacy in his last year of office by designating millions of acres as national monuments, but it's a legacy that faces erosion at the hands of the next Congress and administration.
Western Republicans, furious at what they see as Mr. Clinton's broad use of his executive authority to outflank Congress and circumvent the democratic process, are already discussing how to roll back the vast "land grab" as quickly into the new Bush administration as possible.
Such an effort could well spring from the House Resources Committee, where Rep. James V. Hansen, Utah Republican, has begun outlining a strategy to roll back the 4.6 million acres in national monuments designated by Mr. Clinton since 1996.
"I think Bruce Babbitt told [Mr. Clinton] his legacy should be `Go West!' " Mr. Hansen said. "But he doesn't tell anybody what he's going to do. I intend to ask the local communities, `If you had had input into this [monument designation], what would you have done?'
"Our committee is thinking we'll turn this back the way it should have been," he said.
Mr. Hansen, who is the likely successor to committee Chairman Don Young, says he will invite legislation from lawmakers to trim the monument acreage, tinker with boundaries or eliminate designations altogether, based on the consensus within their communities.
Mr. Clinton has invoked the Antiquities Act of 1906 to declare 11 monuments and expand two more - all but one in the West and all but one in his last year of office. Critics argue that he did so without consulting with the affected communities and went well beyond the scope of the act, which they contend is intended to protect Indian ruins and archeological sites.
Over the summer, Republicans tried to strip the president of his monument-designation authority but failed when the measure was defeated in the Senate 50-49.
Western critics argue that Mr. Clinton's rush to buff up his presidential legacy has hurt rural communities by cutting off access to resource development.
"Look at the California Sequoia monument. If [Rep.] Cal Dooley says, `We don't want it,' then we'll say, `Then you put in a bill,' " said Mr. Hansen. "I think the best way for House Resources to go about it is to go to those people who are affected."
Whether President-elect George W. Bush will support such an effort remains a question. Mr. Bush has yet to discuss how he will approach the Clinton administration's last-minute rash of monument designations, but Westerners are optimistic. …