Clinton plan would circumvent Congress
Gibbons Seeks to Spike
Federal Rivers Proposal

Nevada Congressman Jim Gibbons this week co-sponsored legislation to block a Clinton Administration attempt to facilitate federal takeovers of America's rivers.
Entitled the American Heritage Rivers Initiative, the administration program was first announced by President Clinton in his February State of the Union address and then published May 19 in the Federal Register.
"I will designate 10 American Heritage Rivers to help communities along side them revitalize their waterfronts and clean up pollution in the rivers," said Clinton in his address.
However, Congress had already rejected a more grandiose version of the plan, the American Heritage Areas Act, in the final day's of last year's session, as a threat to property rights and as a not-so- disguised push for national land-use planning.
The rejected bill asked Congress to designate vast stretches of the country as "heritage zones" based on historical, cultural or natural characteristics. Included as targets for designation were a number of river systems.
Unlike its predecessor, the American Rivers program is projected by the administration to operate only within the Executive Branch, without Congressional approval or oversight. Funds and personnel would be reassigned away from Congressionally



designated tasks.
The rivers designated as "American Heritage Rivers" by the president would, under the initiative, receive special federal support in the form of grants, increased services, and greater access to federal programs.
Rivers expected to be on the list, scheduled for announcement later this summer, include the Hudson, the Columbia, the Colorado, and the entire Mississippi, from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico.
Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), chief sponsor of the legislation introduced in Congress this week, called the Clinton initiative "the most recent assault by the Clinton administration on private property rights, States rights, and western values," when she first objected to it in a floor speech June 4.
"Just before the Memorial Day work period the Council on Environmental Quality, an unauthorized agency existing on misappropriated funds, I might add, published this proposal in the Federal Register," she said.
Noting that the proposal appeared May 19, 1997, Chenoweth said that "although law requires a 90-day public comment period, this comment period ends


 
June 9, 1997, a mere 3 weeks after its date of publication -- 3 weeks, not 3 months, as the law requires."
Not only did the administration proposal violate the Administrative Procedures Act, she said, it also totally ignored the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.
Chenoweth noted that House Resources Committee chairman Don Young, Republican of Alaska, and House Agricultural Committee chairman Bob Smith had written Council on Environmental Quality chairwoman Kathleen A. McGinty, "strongly advising CEQ to extend that comment period to make it legal at least another 90 days. I am sure that the gentlewoman would be wise to follow this advice, and I will enter this letter into the Record."
The administration proposal, said Chenoweth, "is just one in a string of the Clinton administration's attacks on our Western public lands."
R.J. Smith, of the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, argued "It's safe to say that this is a move towards national land-use control. It brings a federal nexus to a non-federal




area and federal control down onto private land. Once the boundaries of an area are drawn -- let's say 20 miles wide each side of a river, whatever the mandates are for that area -- they'll apply to everyone in it in some way."
Although the Clinton proposal said designations would be community-based and have the support of the local people, Smith dismissed such assurances.
"Are they really asking small farmers, ranchers, and small property owners how they like the idea?" he asked. "No, they are asking the same people who are always involved in programs like this -- the president of the local chamber of commerce, the wealthy and influential, the bankers, and of course all the environmental groups.
"It it were really a community effort, you wouldn't need 14 federal agencies involved in it."
The legislation introduced Tuesday by Chenoweth, and co-sponsored by Gibbons and ten other representatives, is HR 1842. It would terminate further development and implementation of the


 American Heritage Rivers Initiative.
"None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available to a Federal agency (including the Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of the Interior)," says the short bill, "may be used to develop, implement, or carry out




the American Heritage Rivers Initiative, as described in the proposal of the Council on Environmental Quality published in the Federal Register on May 19, 1997 (62 Fed. Reg. 27253), or any similar initiative."


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