Thursday, February 07, 2013

Babbitt says Obama should use Antiquities Act to protect more lands

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt challenged President Barack Obama to make "vigorous" use of the Antiquities Act to preserve treasured landscapes and pare down the rush to lease public lands for oil and gas drilling. Babbitt, who headed the Interior Department when President Bill Clinton used that act to designate the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, said Obama must make up for the lack of land preservation in his first term and can’t try to compromise with House Republicans who have stalled any effort to name new wilderness. "The idea that you can civilize these people by making concessions is entirely wrong," Babbitt said. "All it does is up their demands for more. The best defense of the Antiquities Act is to use it. And the reason for that is by using it, we show the American people what we have and what the program is for protecting it." Clinton’s use of the century-old power in 1996 to unilaterally name the Grand Staircase monument enraged many southern Utah residents and Utah politicians who got little notice and no say in the matter. It’s still a sore subject to residents of the area. But Babbitt said preservation of federal land is a popular move, and one that unlike gun control, gay rights or immigration reform, isn’t controversial with the American public...more

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