JERRY M. GOWE
Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, announced his extreme opposition to the “Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument,” but said President Clinton has agreed to major concessions for Utah.
According to a press release from Orton’s office, Orton has negotiated with Clinton to allow Utahns more influence in the implementation and management scheme for the new national monument.
“First of all, I believe this is a monumental blunder on the part of the president,” Orton said, “but after it became clear that the President was going to designate this huge swath of land in Southern Utah as a national monument, I was able to secure major concessions from the President to ensure local input from the residents of the area.”
Dave Lemmon, communications director for Orton, said the congressman’s staff met with White House staff and then with White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta before the Clinton announcement last week.
“Finally the president called the congressman at home at 1:45 a.m. early Wednesday morning. They talked for an hour. They talked on this issue alone. He did educate Bill Clinton a lot and was able to garnish these concessions,” Lemmon said.
Lemmon also said Orton felt he needed to negotiate with the president to get the most concessions he could.
“He doesn’t like the final decision one bit, but maybe the biggest concession is that there is no final federal management plan and that it is a 3-year process in which Representative Orton will be integrally involved,” Lemmon said.
The revised national monument will tentatively include the following provisions:
*The area will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management instead of the National Park Service, which ensures that the local land managers who know the land will be able to continue managing the area.
*All grazing, hunting and fishing will continue under existing law.
*Utah state water laws will determine all water issues in the national monument, meaning no federal preemption or reservation of water rights.
*The boundaries of the national monument will exclude all developed areas (including communities), state parks, and all timber or forested areas.
*The Andalex coal mine leases will not be terminated, and the ongoing Environmental Impact Statement will continue as scheduled.
*The school children of Utah will be held harmless. The president committed to transferring other federal coal leases in Utah to the Utah State School Trust, or the federal government will provide direct funding to compensate for lost royalties.
*The adoption of a specific management plan will be a 3-year process, with local involvement ensured.
Orton said he has been asked by Clinton to be an integral part of this 3-year process, which is expected to give Utah the opportunity to study other alternatives like proposals made by Orton and Gov. Mike Leavitt in the past.
MAKING PROGRESS: The Escalante River winds through part of the 1.7 acres of rocky landscape President Clinton designated as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument last week. Rep. Bill Orton, who opposes the monument, says President Clinton has agreed to major concessions that will allow Utahns to influence its management