Gale Norton May Return Western Lands to Western Hands Despite President Clinton’s Monument Designation

Washington, D.C., January 18, 2001 – While Congress considers the confirmation of Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior, President Clinton announced the unilateral creation of six new national monuments in western states.  “Without their agreement or concern for their welfare, the President rammed new executive actions down the throats of western states,” said Robert H. Nelson, Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

It is the latest example of a Clinton administration war on the rural west.  The Administration has created numerous other national monuments, bypassing the wishes of Congress, the states, and counties.  Over 2,400 state legislators across the nation denounced the arrogant designation of these monuments.  The President has taken this action despite a complete repudiation of the environmental policies of his administration by rural westerners in the presidential election.  Al Gore received 26 percent of the vote in Utah; 28 percent in Alaska, Idaho, and Wyoming; and 33 percent in Montana.

The new monument designations follow Clinton’s unilateral setting aside on January 5 of 58 million acres of new roadless areas within the national forest system.  This action increased the total acreage of national forests in a wilderness status by fully160 percent.  More than half the national forest system in the United States is now closed off to the very people who live there.  Without access, there is no hiking, camping, backpacking, hunting, fishing, and bird watching, as well as oil and gas drilling at a time when the country faces an energy shortage.

According to Nelson, “setting aside this vast area of forest will, ironically, also be bad for the forest environment.  After a century of fire suppression, many western forests¾including many in western roadless areas¾are a torch ready to blow.  When the fires of 2000 are repeated, there soon will be more environmental damage all around¾the oldest trees destroyed, runoff of sediment, ‘sterilization’ of forest soils, and air pollution hanging over much of the west.”

Norton’s confirmation opens the West to rational decision making instead of management by uncontrolled forest fires.  Nelson concludes, “opponents of Gale Norton are so upset because her confirmation would return control over the uses of western lands to western hands.”

Dr. Robert H. Nelson is a Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a Professor at the University of Maryland's School of Public Affairs.  He is the author of A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000). CEI, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group founded in 1984, is dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. For more information, please contact Richard Morrison, associate director of media relations, at [email protected] or 202-331-1010, ext. 266.<?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = O />