President Clinton's expected announcement Tuesday that he will create two new national monuments in Arizona has created a firestorm of controversy among officials concerned about its effect on economic development.
In a letter sent last week, Arizona's congressional delegation and governor, Republican Jane Hull, requested that Clinton refrain from establishing any new protected areas in the state without first consulting local communities.
"The people of our state have a long and distinguished record of working to preserve and protect some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the United States," the letter says. "We are writing to ask you to refrain from this unilateral action and instead work with us to develop a solution reflecting the wishes of the people of Arizona."
During a visit to Arizona on Tuesday, Clinton is expected to announce that he will use the 1906 "Antiquities Act" to declare as much as 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon in the northern part of the state to be the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument and thus off-limits to mining and other commercial development.
Administration officials said last week that Clinton also is likely to declare as a national monument an archaeological site 50 miles north of Phoenix. The site, to be called the Agua Fria National Monument, features hundreds of Indian sites dating to the 13th century, from small pits to a hundred-room pueblo.
In both cases, the land is already owned by the federal government and under no immediate threat from development. But the land is not currently protected from future commercial use and could be sold to private interests.
Presidents, especially Democrats, have traditionally used the Antiquities Act to bypass Congress and decree that certain areas are of such environmental or historical significance that they should be preserved for future generations.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt last month recommended to Clinton that he declare the Arizona sites national monuments. Clinton is also expected to accept another Babbitt recommendation to expand the existing Pinnacles National Monument in California and create a new one along the California coast that would encompass thousands of small islands, rocks and reefs.
The expected Clinton announcement has thrilled environmentalists, who fear the Arizona areas could become compromised by the rapid pace of expansion in the Southwest.
"This is exactly what the Antiquities Act was supposed to allow the president to do, to look forward to the future and set some jewels aside," said Rob Smith, Southwest staff director for the Sierra Club.
"Hunting will still be allowed. Ranching will still be allowed. Access to recreational areas will still be allowed," Smith said. "This pretty much keeps [the land] as it is and precludes a future that no one really wants for the region."
That, however, has not satisfied officials like Hull, who was invited to the Clinton event tomorrow but will not attend.
Hull's office said the governor's opposition was less a matter of protecting public lands, which she supports, than one of a dictate coming down from Washington.
"She does not like people in Washington presenting these kind of actions as a fait accompli," said spokeswoman Francie Noyes.
CAPTION: Anticipated Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument is between the Grand Canyon and Utah border.