Facebook Twitter



Still furious about President Clinton's surprise formation of the new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, introduced a bill Thursday to strip the power of presidents to create permanent national monuments.

Orton's bill would allow presidents only to designate temporary monuments for 180 days. Then if a majority of Congress fails to extend that temporary designation, it lapses.He said that would still allow quick action to protect any resource - such as a historical building - that faces an immediate threat but would require congressional and public discussion for creation of any permanent park.

"This legislation is intended to put a stop to the kind of arbitrary and unilateral actions taken by President Clinton last week," Or-ton said.

The Utah delegation heard nothing about that new monument until 11 days before it was formed, and then only from a leak to the Washington Post. The administration then for several days insisted that no action was imminent and the proposal was merely in vague, early stages of work.

The delegation was then asked about its views on such a monument beginning only five days before formation. And it was never shown boundaries or given many other specifics until after it was formed. Republicans have attacked Orton for not having more influence with Clinton on the matter.

"My legislation would effectively put a strong check and balance in a process that is clearly lacking any kind of rational oversight. We cannot continue to allow people from inside the beltway, who have never set foot in Utah, to make decisions affecting us without any kind of congressional oversight," Orton said.

"President Clinton was wrong in using politics to drive policy in the designation of the monument," he said but added that all parties now need to work together to ensure a proper land management plan is developed.

"Further elevating the partisan rhetoric on this issue will not result in good public policy either. We must listen to one another and work together," he said.

Orton's bill has little chance of passage before Congress adjourns, which is expected this weekend.

However, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, was considering trying to attach an amendment to a continuing resolution needed to keep the government funded after Oct. 1 that would require congressional approval for any future national monuments.

He and the Idaho delegation also introduced a bill calling for such protection in Idaho itself (it already exists in Wyoming and Alaska), and Rep. Richard Pom-bo, R-Calif., announced plans for a similar bill to prevent monuments without consultation in California.

The day after the monument was formed, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, also introduced a bill to limit the size of monuments that a president can create to no more than 5,000 acres. Had that been in effect, it would have reduced the size of the 1.7 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante by 99.7 percent.