Last year, with the stroke of a pen (and without a word of warning to the people of Utah or their elected representatives), President Clinton seized nearly 2 million acres of Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante area as a national monument.
This year, he has gone after a much bigger target; America's rivers, river communities and watersheds. And, like his Utah land grab, he has chosen to do it by presidential fiat, by simply signing an executive order and publishing it in the Federal Register.On May 19, as members of Congress were leaving Washington for the Memorial Day recess, President Clinton published the American Heritage Rivers Initiative in the Federal Register (1997 volume, page 27,253). "The initiative," said Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, in a June 10 speech on the House floor, "purports to establish a mechanism by which President Clinton will designate as American Heritage Rivers 10 rivers per year. It establishes undefined, fictional governing entities known as water communities. These governing water communities will then determine the scope and the size of the designation area, which can include the entire watershed." Mr. Clinton's actions amount to, Chenoweth noted, an enormous usurpation by the federal executive of state water rights and private property rights.
On June 10, Chenoweth introduced HR-1842 in order to "terminate further development and implementation of the American Heritage Rivers Initiative." The one-page bill states, "None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available to a federal agency . . . may be used to develop, implement or carry out the American Heritage Rivers Initiative . . . or any similar program."
James Franklin Rinehart