McInnis looks at land use

'11th-hour' Clinton move sparks action

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— Spurred on by his opposition to some of the 11th -hour land designations made by former President Bill Clinton, Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, says he will do his best to promote multiple use of public land in the West.

McInnis said he personally made sure a "land swap" sponsored by the Clinton administration for land bordering Brown's Park National Wildlife Refuge in Moffat County did not go through.

Clinton wanted to give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service control of a 6,000-acre parcel of public land which had been in the hands of the Bureau of Land Management. That move would have placed a higher level of restrictions on the property in order to protect natural habitats. But Mcinnis, along with some residents and political leaders in Moffat County, fought the move, saying it represented a last-ditch effort to designate land without considering local input.

"There may be arguments for and against the move," McInnis said. "My objection was to the process used by the president."

McInnis contacted the head of the BLM, Nina Hatfield, asking her to recommend to the Secretary of the Interior not to print the land swap in the federal register, effectively withdrawing the designation. The land swap was not printed, and is pending review by the Bush administration.

Some environmental groups, however, feel that Clinton's moves to protect the natural environment were justified.

"We don't believe the president abused his authority," said Rocky Smith, the forest watch coordinator for Colorado Wild. "We think it's good that the president has the ability to protect areas that have unique or outstanding values."

Smith was responding to a recent threat by some Republican congressmen hoping to check the power of the president to preserve threatened national land by rewriting the 1906 Antiquities Act. McInnis himself does not want to dismantle the act, according to Josh Penry, the congressman's press secretary.

With a track record that includes protecting national monuments in Colorado, such as Colorado Canyons and Sand Dunes National Park, McInnis said he will attempt to take a "balanced approach to the use of public lands." That includes preserving the concept of multiple-use on federal land and being more receptive to local interests, McInnis said.

"Last year I hit a grand slam with my legislation," McInnis said. "But we did that because we had community consensus and that's exactly what you have to accomplish."

McInnis also said he will push to pass a bill he introduced last session to allow the government to buy privately owned sections of the Continental Divide Trail.

There are more than 3,000 miles of trails on the Continental Divide Trail, but about 700 of those miles are privately owned.

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