As expected, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, changed his first name Friday to "Mr. Chairman" as he assumed chairmanship of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Lands of the House Resources Committee (formerly Natural Resources).
Hansen had wrestled for weeks whether to take over that committee, or a panel of the National Security Committee (formerly Armed Services) as a way to better help Hill Air Force Base. GOP members may chair only one committee or subcommittee.Hansen said, "I decided that I could have the most impact and do the most good for Utah by taking the public lands chairmanship."
He added, "This is the subcommittee which has a direct voice in how the public lands are administered. In Utah, more than 67 percent of the land is controlled one way or another by the federal government."
And Hansen wants to use the post to combat what Westerners call President Clinton's war on the West.
"We have to moderate some of the administration's extreme policies on mining, grazing, timber, endangered species and wetlands, which are killing the Western states," Hansen said.
"We have to institute common-sense reforms that still preserve essential environmental values while allowing for responsible multiple-use of the public lands. This subcommittee will allow me that forum," he said.
He added that he will still be a senior member of the National Security Committee and will continue work to help protect Hill Air Force Base.
"With (former Sen.) Jake Garn (R-Utah) nominated to serve on the base closure commission, I believe that Hill Air Force Base will get a fair hearing should it be considered for closure next year. I will continue to make Hill Air Force Base and its future a top priority for me and my staff," he said.
He added his new chairmanship may help him protect incursions against the Utah Test and Training Range operated by Hill, which should also help the base's future.
The new post will also put Hansen in charge of oversight of national parks. He created head- lines recently by supporting creation of a commission to propose closing some of the 368 units of that system to better maintain the remaining national parks.