Monumental changes

 

With only three days left before George W. Bush would become president, the Clinton administration pressed forward with its land-protection plans and created seven new national monuments.

The Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona is the largest of the pack, encompassing over 486,000 acres of desert northeast of Organ Pipe National Monument. The area will be managed by the BLM, but about 84,000 acres are now within the Air Force's Goldwater Bombing Range. Mike Taylor, BLM's Phoenix Field Manager, says the military acreage will be officially added to the new monument in November, but overflights will be allowed to continue.

The new Upper Missouri River Breaks Monument in central Montana will "diversify the portfolio" of American protected areas, says Bob Ekey of the Wilderness Society. The monument includes part of the Lewis and Clark trail and one of the last free-flowing stretches of the Missouri.

The other new Western monuments are Carrizo Plain in Central California, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks in New Mexico, Pompeys Pillar in Montana, and Minidoka Internment in Idaho. The Idaho site will commemorate Japanese-Americans interned during World War II. A seventh monument was created in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Although questions remain about the monuments' fate once Bush takes office, environmentalists haven't expressed concern. "There's no authorization in the Antiquities Act for the president to abolish monuments," says the Wilderness Society's Dave Alberswerth. "The trend in history has been more protection for monuments rather than less."