In his first major act since his re-election, President Clinton on Tuesday signed a popular parks bill affecting 41 states.
It includes language that allows the controversial Snowbasin land swap east of Ogden.The trade became a political football of sorts, as it was buried in voluminous and unrelated legislation that Congress fought over for months. Critics oppposing the exchange said it was never aired publicly enough in Utah, but proponents touted it as a much-needed shot in the arm for an enormous resort development at the base of Mount Ogden.
Boosters also note that although the ski area will host downhill ski competitions during the 2002 Winter Olympics, it is currently poorly equipped to handle such events. Snowbasin today is a somewhat ramshackle operation consisting of a few dilapidated buildings and four aged lifts.
Earl Holding, the Sinclair Oil magnate, benefits directly from the trade because it gives him an additional 1,320 acres to build a development on a scale similar to Deer Valley, the luxury ski resort in Park City.
Holding, who owns some property in the area but has said it is not enough for a development of adequate scale, plans improvements that would include some 4,000 overnight accommodations, 800 additional condominiums and as many as 1,200 houses. Assorted restaurants, shops and a golf course are also anticipated.
The Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996 also expands and makes boundary adjustments in scores of parks, authorizes dozens of land swaps and creates new heritage areas, historic trails and scenic rivers in 41 states. Clinton said that in signing the bill, it shows that "we will be good stewards of the land that God has given us."
The bill ensures preservation of the Presidio, a 1,400-acre former Army base in San Francisco, by switching its management from the U.S. Park Service to a nonprofit trust established by the government.
It also creates the first protected tallgrass prairie in Kansas, establishes a historic trail commemorating the 1965 voting rights march in Selma, Ala., and helps New York and New Jersey purchase 17,500 acres of the Sterling Forest, which environmentalists feared otherwise might be developed.
Summoning congressional leaders to the White House, the president also issued a call for bi-partisan cooperation between Democrats and Republicans.
"We're in this boat together, and we have to paddle it together," the president said. "That's what the American people want. We've got to remember it's the American people in the boat with us, and we're not nearly as important as they are and their future."
Facing the likelihood that Congress will pass a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget, Clinton softened his opposition to the measure. While saying, "I don't believe we need it," he added that if it is adopted, it should be crafted in a way to avoid hurting the economy if it slips into recession.
"Someday down the road, we'll have another bad patch in the economy," Clinton said. "We just don't want an amendment to wind up making a recession worse and causing us to do things that are counterproductive, that you would never do in a recession," such as raising taxes.
Tuesday's ceremony was the first formal bill signing by Clinton since he won re-election a week ago. On Friday, he is scheduled to depart for Hawaii, where he'll spend three nights before making state visits to Australia and Thailand and attending a Pacific summit in the Philippines.
In another development, Laura D'Andrea Tyson confirmed that she is resigning as head of Clinton's National Economic Council to return to the University of California at Berkeley to teach in the economics department and business school. In an interview in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday, she said she remains convinced the federal government can use trade policy aggressively to promote the national interest.
"You have to basically craft something which essentially will meet industry's test, but also is something that meets the test of the national interest," she said.
Deseret News staff writer Karl Cates contributed to this report.