In a private letter to President-elect Bush, the incoming chairman of the House Resources Committee has proposed dismantling a wide variety of Clinton administration environmental initiatives.
Rep. James V. Hansen (R-Utah), who is expected to be named Resources chairman by House leaders today, expressed the hope that lawmakers and the incoming administration could work to reverse some of Clinton's most prominent conservation efforts.
The suggestions, outlined in an eight-page letter, include everything from relaxing a ban on snowmobile use in some national parks to removing some of the national monument designations the president had given public lands in recent years.
"After many years of being frustrated by the Clinton administration's unreasoned and frequently absurd interpretation of law and congressional intent, I am elated at finally having the opportunity to work with your administration to correct the misguided direction the Clinton administration has taken in their attempt to manage our natural resources," Hansen wrote Bush and Vice President-elect Cheney on Dec. 27.
The 11-term Republican, who has publicly attacked Clinton's environmental agenda over the past eight years, indicated that he and Cheney have already discussed how to address one of the outgoing administration's most controversial policies: declaring large wilderness areas national monuments.
Hansen noted that since the monument declarations made this year are still in the planning stages, Congress will have "an opportunity to review these designations in detail and make decisions accordingly."
Hansen and his aides did not return telephone calls for comment yesterday.
The letter sparked an immediate outcry from environmentalists such as Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who served as the ranking Democrat on the Resources Committee during the 106th Congress.
"He wants to repeal the last eight years and much of the environmental progress we have had over the past 25 years," Miller said. "This is just a dream wish list for the mining, oil, gas and timber industries."
Hansen also proposed blocking new regulations that would limit hardrock mining -- a practice opponents decry as environmentally destructive -- and rules limiting the number of air tours that can be conducted over the Grand Canyon and other national parks.
In addition, Hansen suggested using a formula that would be more advantageous to the oil and gas industries in calculating how much companies have to pay the federal government for operating on public lands.
These issues were sources of constant friction between the GOP-controlled Congress and the Clinton administration over the past six years.
Miller said that, while the missive should "strike fear into the hearts" of environmentalists, he is confident a bipartisan group of lawmakers will stop the new Bush administration from enacting Hansen's proposals.
"He doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell," Miller said. "The largest bipartisan coalition in the Congress is for environmental protection. It was there under [former House speaker] Newt Gingrich, and it's there today."
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