Gore Announces New National Monuments
by John K. Wiley, Associated Press
PASCO, Wash. -- Vice President Al Gore today declared two new national monuments -- one in Oregon and another along the Columbia River, a 51-mile stretch that's been a buffer on the edge of a nuclear site.
Gore, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, made the announcement on behalf of President Clinton during a campaign swing. Wearing blue jeans, he toured the Hanford Reach section of the river in a small motorboat named, "Can Do II Save the Reach."
Hanford Reach is the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River. The other new monument is the Cascade-Siskiyou area of Oregon, including Soda Mountain and nearby lands where plant and animal life are abundant.
"These lands are among America's great natural treasures, and we owe it to future generations to preserve them," Gore said in a statement. "We act today so that, years from now, Americans will still be able to paddle free-flowing waters and hike pristine peaks, enjoying these extraordinary stretches of our natural heritage."
Gore also called on holding a "summit" in Oregon among those for and against breaching four dams across the Snake River to help save the region's famous but endangered salmon. The Gore campaign said a similar summit a couple of years ago helped resolve coastal salmon disputes.
Industry and labor officials say that breaching the dams as environmentalists suggest would threaten businesses and jobs.
"Extinction is not an option, nor is massive economic dislocation," Gore said in prepared remarks. "I reject both extremes."
George W. Bush, his likely Republican presidential opponent, has pledged to block any attempt to breach the Snake River dams. The Bush campaign criticized Gore anew today for not taking a position either way.
"Al Gore continues to demonstrate weak leadership on an important issue," said Bush spokesman Dan Barlett.
The monuments were designated by Clinton under the Antiquities Act, which allows creation of monuments on federal land for scientific or historic reasons. Besides those announced by Gore, the president designated two more monuments: the Canyons of the Ancients, located nine miles west of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, and the Ironwood Forest, a 129,000-acre area northwest of Tucson, Ariz., that is filled with stands of ironwood trees.
Sen. Slade Gorton, put in touch with reporters by the Bush campaign, beat Gore to the punch by making the announcement Thursday.
"No one disagrees that the Hanford Reach must be protected. It is a magnificent part of the state that deserves preservation for generations to come," said Gorton, R-Wash.
He said the declaration is hasty and unjustified, and that management decisions for the reach should be made with local residents.
"There is no threat to the reach, since all the property on either side of the river is owned by the government. The only 'emergency' is the fact that President Clinton will soon be out of office," Gorton said.
Gore spokesman Chris Lehane, responding to Gorton, said: "The federal government has the right to protect that land for all the American people. As the Interior Department puts in place a management plan for Hanford Reach, they will work with the local community."
The reach runs along the eastern edge of the Hanford reservation, the most contaminated nuclear site in the country. The area remains undeveloped because it served as a security buffer when the government made plutonium for the nation's nuclear arsenal from World War II until the 1980s.
It also is prime salmon-spawning ground.
While in the state, Gore also was delivering an environmental speech at Washington State University and addressing the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
How best to protect and manage the reach has split the state's congressional delegation for the past decade.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt toured the reach last month before recommending federal protection for 200,000 acres. No contaminated areas were included.
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