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CNN Today

President Clinton to Add Grand Canyon Land to National Monuments List Despite Opposition

Aired January 11, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton is at the Grand Canyon for a grand gesture, but some say it's a monumental mistake. He's about to add thousands of acres of western land to the government's list of national monuments, and that doesn't sit well with some folks out west.

CNN White House correspondent Chris Black is in Grand Canyon Village, Arizona -- Chris.

CHRIS BLACK, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, President Clinton today says he wants to finish a job that was begun 92 years ago by a predecessor, President Theodore Roosevelt, who first made the Grand Canyon a national monument. Today, President Clinton will be designating three new national monuments and expanding a fourth in the states of Arizona and California. The largest and the most controversial is here at the Grand Canyon. Mr. Clinton will use the same law used by Teddy Roosevelt to protect the Grand Canyon watershed area, one million acres of chasms and cliffs and juniper trees that stretch from the north rim of the Grand Canyon all the way to the Nevada state boarder.

This is strongly supported by the people of the state, according to a poll conducted just last week by an environmental group, but the Republican members of the Arizona congressional delegation, including Presidential candidate John McCain are strongly opposed and say that President Clinton is usurping congressional authority with this unilateral move. But the former governor of this state, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, recommended that the president take this step. He said that Congress on its own would not adequately protect this land, which is among one of the most rarest pieces of property in the United States.

The Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument is a remote and relatively-inaccessible area. There is some cattle grazing, but this new restriction will sharply limit economic development, including timber clearing and mining. The president is the only person who has the authority to make this designation, and every president in the 20th century, with the exception of three, Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Bush, have used it, and today Mr. Clinton is hoping to continue to that tradition and add to his environmental legacy -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And Chris, as we mentioned, lots of folks out west don't like this at all. Can he expect any hecklers joining him for this announcement today at the Grand Canyon?

BLACK: There was a scattering of protests when he got in last night, Natalie, but there really hasn't been much. There's unquestionably some people who are strongly opposed. There's a very long tradition here in the west of opposition to federal intervention and federal control. It's important to remember that the federal government already owns this land and that there isn't any mining or anything like that going on on it now, but it is an important principle to people out here. But it seems, according to these recent polls, that most people in this state think the president's doing the right thing -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Chris Black, and we'll be back to the Grand Canyon when the president begins speaking to carry his comments live.

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