BIOD: New U.S. National Monument


Clinton Declares New National Monument, Limiting Land Development in Utah

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President Clinton, perhaps equally concerned with his environmental legacy as reelection chances, recently used the Grand Canyon as a backdrop to announce the new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. At 1.7 million acres, the region is an enormously important wilderness area which also links a number of other protected areas into a more contiguous preserved region. President Clinton deserves much credit for this action.

Clinton limits land development in Utah 9/18/96

Copyright 1996 by Reuters

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz., Sept 18 (Reuter) -

Using the beauty of the Grand Canyon as a campaign backdrop, President Bill Clinton on Wednesday signed an order that ends new land development on 1.7 million acres (690,000 hectares) of federal land in southern Utah.

Calling the area "some of the most remarkable land in the world," Clinton said "in protecting it we live up to our obligation to preserve a national heritage".

Faced with strong opposition to the move in Utah, where he came third in 1992 behind then-President George Bush and independent challenger Ross Perot, Clinton opted to make his announcement in neighbouring Arizona -- a state his political strategists believe he can win in November.

Standing near the site where President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 issued a decree protecting the Grand Canyon from development, Clinton formally made the vast stretch of red rock canyons and plateaus in southern Utah the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The move, which does not require congressional approval, means no new mining leases will be issued for land with one of the nation's largest coal reserves, estimated to have a potential value of trillions of dollars.

While mining was 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."

The decision applies to Grand Staircase, adjacent to Bryce Canyon National Park, the Kaiparowits Plateau, adjacent to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Esclante basin, which is next to Capital Reef National Park.

Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt and the state's congressional delegation called a news conference in Washington to vigorously oppose closing the area to development because of concerns about the economic impact on the state.

"In the same instant Bill Clinton claims to be the environmental president, he locks up 62 billion tons of the cleanest, most environmentally beneficial coal in the United States," said Sen. Bob Bennett, a Utah Republican.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, the other Republican senator from the state, said there had been no consultation before Clinton made the decision.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit, travelling with Clinton, said the order did not revoke a lease already given to Dutch-owned Andalex Resources Corp. to mine the high-quality coal on the Kaiparowits Plateau. But he said it imposed environmental standards that must be met before determining whether mining could be carried out.

PacifiCorp, which holds the only other major lease for mining, last week agreed to exchange its lease for rights on other land. Grazing will continue to be permitted, and hunting and fishing will continue under state control.

With the race for the White House heading toward its Nov. 5 conclusion, Clinton sought to promote his concerns about safeguarding the environment - - something pollsters say ranks high in importance among voters, many of whom have doubts about Republican handling of the issue.

Vice President Al Gore, who wrote a best-selling book on environmental concerns around the world, criticised congressional Republicans and said "if they got their way, they would do pretty serious damage" to the environment.

"We're going to stand up to it and we're going to prevail," Gore said in introducing Clinton at the ceremony.

In August, Clinton went to Yellowstone National Park and announced an agreement stopping mining operations at New World Mine, on the fringe of the park. The action, and Clinton's moves to stop mining around a portion of Yellowstone, have strengthened his standing in several Western states -- a region traditionally considered a Republican stronghold.

Clinton was to fly to Washington state for a nighttime rally and then lead a bus caravan through the state on Thursday before heading to Oregon. He campaigns in Oregon and South Dakota on Friday, before returning to the White House.

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