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Know the West

Monumental conflict continues

  The saying, "time heals all wounds," may not apply to Utah, at least not to its politicians. Though more than a year has passed since President Clinton created the 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, the state's congressional delegation continues to try to dismantle it.

Republican Rep. Jim Hansen told the Salt Lake Tribune that memos recently subpoenaed from the White House show that the decision to create the monument was "strictly political" to help Clinton get elected and had nothing to do with the environment.

Outrage over how the monument was created, combined with pressure to exploit its minerals, means that "eventually (the monument) is going to be totally taken back ... or Congress will have to go in there and change the boundaries," Hansen predicted.

The Utah delegation recently convinced the House of Representatives to pass legislation limiting the powers of the president to create national monuments. The bill, which passed Oct. 7 on a partisan vote of 229-197, would change the 1906 Antiquities Act so that the president would need congressional approval to create monuments greater than 50,000 acres. The administration has promised a veto of the bill should it get by the Senate.

Environmentalists say the Utah delegation's fight has set a poor tone for the ongoing planning process for the monument, due for completion in 1999, and is out of touch with public opinion.

"I think people have left the politicians in the dust on this issue," says Scott Groene of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "While Hansen is screaming, people in southern Utah are figuring out how to live with the monument."

*Paul Larmer