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2 Utahns demand monument 'drafts'

WASHINGTON — Western Republicans say that only a few pages were leaked to the public of a document that revealed Obama administration discussions about creating new national monuments. Now they want to see the rest of them, too.

They also want to see any other documents the administration may have about forming new national monuments.

Sixteen GOP House members from the West, including Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, wrote Friday to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying they have seen only pages 15 to 21 of an "internal draft" document that talked about forming up to 14 monuments, including two in Utah in the San Rafael Swell and in Cedar Mesa.

They asked for the rest of that document, any others (including a list of attendees) of "brainstorming sessions" discussing monuments, any maps distributed, and any communication to people outside of the department discussing possibly forming monuments.

Bishop, chairman of the Western Congressional Caucus, said after sending the letter, "Despite the DOI's statements that the initial documents are simply 'drafts,' the American people deserve to know the full extent of the planning as well as the involvement of all outside parties."

He added, "If the DOI is confident that it is operating with the utmost transparency, then they should have no problem providing these documents expeditiously. However, given the number of congressional document requests made to DOI this past year that remain unfulfilled, I am not holding my breath."

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, said, "If this internal document had not been exposed, Americans would still be in the dark about the Obama administration's potential plans to lock up millions of acres across the West."

Hastings noted that while Salazar has promised local involvement before any monuments might be created, he has given no assurance that the president will not designate the monuments anyway.

"When you catch someone in the kitchen in the dark of night with their hand in the cookie jar, it's very hard to believe they're just checking to see what's inside and that no cookies were just about to get eaten," he said.

Hastings added, "The communities and those workers whose jobs could be directly affected by the locking up of these lands deserve to see a full picture of what was happening inside their government."

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, also sent a letter of his own to Salazar to seek such documents.

Also on the national monument issue, the Senate late Thursday rejected on a 58-38 vote an amendment that would have taken away a president's ability to create national monuments without congressional approval in Utah and eight other states.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., attempted to add that to a bill dealing with the U.S. Capitol Police. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, R-Utah, voted for the amendment.

Hatch said he was disappointed by the vote, and that "America's public lands belong to the people, not to government officials and environmental extremists."

This story was reported from Salt Lake City.

e-mail: lee@desnews.com