The mother of all land grabs

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to a feature story.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:

"In all my 20 years in the U.S. Senate, I have never seen a clearer example of the arrogance of federal power. Indeed, this is the mother of all land grabs. And, the declaration by President Clinton is being made without so much as a by-your-leave to the people of Utah.

"There has been no consultation; no hearings; no town meetings; no TV or radio discussion shows; no input from federal land managers "on the ground;" no maps, no boundaries; no nothing. In fact, we first had to learn about this matter from the Washington Post just a week ago.

"It is utterly apparent that the public processes mandated by our existing environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, have not been followed. These processes exist precisely to prevent this kind of federal usurpation of state and local prerogatives without public knowledge or debate. And, what should be clear to everyone in a state with public land is that if the president can exercise such power with regard to Utah, then he can exercise it where you live as well.

"Moreover, the declaration has nothing to do with preserving land in southern Utah - which is a goal we all share - and everything to do with scoring political points with a powerful interest group just 48 days before a national election. Isn't it interesting that adherence to an open, public process, where policy decisions are made in the light of day, has always been advocated by environmental groups? But now, when it serves their own purposes, these groups remain silent and refrain from crying foul to a deal crafted behind closed doors.

"The president may have some statutory authority to take this action, but he certainly does not have the moral authority."