One last land grab before I leave

By Tom DeWeese
web posted January 22, 2001

It was totally cynical and totally Clintonian. Four days before he was forced to relinquish the powers of the Presidency, he created six new "national monuments" involving a million more federal acres to the sixty million already sequestered from the use of Americans.

These new so-called "monuments" are on land in Montana, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Idaho. The War on the West continued to the last possible moment. In each case, bans on activities ranging from timber, mining and oil drilling, as well as vehicle use, were part of the monumentalizing of America Clinton-style.

As the Associated Press reported, "Clinton has already created eleven new national monuments and expanded two others. Those actions set new protections on 4.6 million acres of federal land. The new monuments to be established today would raise that total to at least 5.6 million acres."

Wrong. The total acreage that Clinton has attempted to sequester amounts to more than sixty million acres when you include his ban on all new roads and most commercial logging on more than a quarter of federally owned land. It affects 38 per cent of Montana's landmass. The total amount represents an area that is seven times that size of Maryland.

Unknown to most Americans is the fact that our national forests and parks, as well as offshore coastal areas are designated for "multiple use." Congress intended to insure that their natural assets would be available to commercial and recreational use. Under Clinton's Interior Department, every effort has been bent to further restrict access and use for camping, hiking, hunting, fishing and off-road vehicles of every description.

What Clinton has done, in reality, is force up the cost of every new home to be built by $5,000 to $10,000 dollars because the U.S., home to 70 per cent of the forests that existed when the Pilgrims arrived, is actually importing wood thanks to the Clinton war on the nation's timber industry. In addition, in the past, national forests paid an estimated 25 per cent of the gross receipts from timber sales directly to states for county roads and schools, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars each year. That income is now effectively ended.

It gets worse. The forest fires that destroyed million of acres of forestland in 2000, will be subject to the same level of destruction in the future so long as the ban on roads continues. Without roads, such massive fires cannot be effectively fought and contained to minimize the losses.

It gets worse. The people of the West have always lived close to the land and depended on mining, oil extraction, and the harvesting of timber as major sources of income. Literally billions of dollars in jobs, tax revenues, and the value of huge reserves of coal and other minerals, untapped oil, and "protected" forestland, have been effectively denied to Americans.

In one case, in Montana, the Clinton administration called in United Nations bureaucrats to foreclose the operation of a new Montana gold mine whose worth is incaluculable. And Montana is known as the "Treasure State."

Clinton's seizure in 1996 of 1.7 million acres of Utah federal land to all economic and most recreational activity killed the development of a coal mine that would have employed a thousand workers in that economically hard-pressed area of southern Utah, generating an estimated $20 million a year locally.

Thus, Clinton's "monuments" constitute an attack on America's economic base, its ability to be energy independent, and the right of its citizens to have access to the very forests and parklands set aside for their use. If a foreign power had seized this land, we would have gone to war with it. Instead, Clinton has used his powers, even in the final hours of his presidency, to further wound and harm the nation.

Tom DeWeese is president of the American Policy Center, an activist think tank headquartered outside Washington, DC. The Center maintains an Internet site at www.americanpolicy.org.

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