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President Clinton has stirred up a hornet’s nest in central
California.

Several hundred loggers, ranchers, snowmobilers, horseback
enthusiasts, youth camp leaders and others rallied in four separate
cities Saturday against a plan to create a 355,000-acre national
monument in Sequoia National Forest, according to local media reports.

In Fresno, more than 200 people demonstrated outside Peoples Church
– some with signs bearing such slogans as “Clinton, Get Your Own Park”
and “No Clinton Land Grab,” the Fresno Bee reported.

Another 200 attended a rally in Bakersfield. Simultaneous protests
took place in the city of Azusa near Los Angeles and in Alameda County
in the San Francisco Bay area.

Opponents have no illusions about stopping the monument deal before
it happens, Rick Dancing of Sierra Access, Multiple Use and Stewardship
coalition — or SAMS — told the Bakersfield Californian.

“The monument is a done deal,” he said. “What’s going to happen now
is, it’s going to be challenged in every way possible.”

SAMS, the organizer of the rallies, represents a wide range of 70
businesses and organizations — including the Fresno Yacht, Sequoia
Industries, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Mountaineering
Team Inc., and the Hume Lake Christian Camp to name a few.

Yet despite Saturday’s turnout and growing grass-roots opposition, the
president is moving ahead with the controversial plan which proponents
say is needed to protect less than 20,000 acres of sequoia trees.

Long Meadow, Sequoia National Forest. Photos by Marion Matthews

 

The trees — some of which are reputed to be 3,000 years old –
grow in scattered groves across the western slope of the Sierra Nevada
mountains. Three dozen groves are within the national forest, about the
same number as in the adjacent Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks.

In a replay of the procedure he used first in 1996 to create the 1.7
million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah,
Clinton will once again invoke the Antiquities Act of 1906 and issue a proclamation
bestowing monument status. The ceremonial signing is expected to occur
this week or next, possibly on Earth Day, April 22, at a
not-yet-disclosed location.

Map of Sequoia National Forest
Click for a larger view

The act allows the president to establish monuments without
congressional approval, and the earlier action drew the ire of
administration critics who denounced it as a maneuver for bypassing
Congress, local officials and the people they serve. Clinton ignored the
criticism and has created several monuments with a stroke of his pen.
The Giant Sequoia National Monument will be his fourth designation this
year.

The scenario this time has been changed slightly. The president has
announced his intentions in advance, couching them in terms of a request
for advice from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, whose
department includes the U.S. Forest Service.

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman

In a Feb. 14 letter, Clinton complained to
the secretary that “legislative proposals have been introduced over the
last decade, but not enacted, to provide permanent protection for the
sequoias, and a number of others have proposed Antiquities Act
protection for unprotected sequoias. Dr. Edgar Wayburn, Honorary
President of the Sierra Club, mentioned
this to me when I awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom last
summer, and he also has written me about the subject.”

The president directed the secretary to review the matter and make a
recommendation within 60 days as to “whether appropriate stewardship for
the sequoia groves warrants exercise of my authority under the
Antiquities Act.”

Glickman announced Friday he was recommending monument status for
355,000 acres and called for an end to all commercial logging
within the monument — not only of sequoias, which are already
protected. The amount of acreage was not quite as much as expected –
some reports had given estimates of over 400,000 acres — but it is
nearly a third of the 1.2 million-acre forest.

According to an Agriculture department press release, there would be a two and
a half year transition period during which time the Forest Service would
honor previously sold timber sales. Grazing and special use permits
would remain valid and would “likely be renewed through normal permit
processes, subject to otherwise applicable laws and regulations
governing land use.”

“All valid, pre-existing rights, including the access rights of
private in-holders would be preserved,” Glickman promised.

The boundaries of the proposed monument were not released; nor was it
clear how many of the over-20,000 acres of private forests within the
forest will be included.

The likelihood of a pending designation was announced in February,
sending shock waves through rural communities and industries of the area
that are economically dependent on the forest and on the multiple-use
policy that guarantees public access.

Despite assurances by the administration, opponents fear many
activities now permitted — such as cattle grazing, snowmobiling, ORV
use, horseback riding and hunting — will eventually be outlawed as
well. They condemn the proposal as overreaching and unnecessary — as
another presidential “land grab.”

Rancher Nathan Carver, who has a permit to graze cattle part of the
year in the forest, explained his concerns to WorldNetDaily.

“If you look at the numbers of acres government owns over half of
California already, if you start figuring wilderness areas, roadless
areas, monuments — those kinds of areas the government has locked up
and taken out of multiple use so that only a few hardy souls with
backpacks will be allowed to enjoy them — you get down to very few
areas that the general public can enjoy.”

Local governments fear its impact on the region’s economy.

After studying the effects monument designation has had on other
areas of the country, the boards of supervisors of Tulare, Kern and
Fresno counties — significant parts of which fall within the forest –
fired off virtually identical resolutions to the White House, summing up
the major objections to the designation:

“The Giant Sequoia Monument project would potentially set aside up to
400,000 acres for protection of 19,345 acres of Sequoia groves, thereby
further reducing public access, eliminating jobs, potentially damaging
local economies, and reducing revenue to counties and local schools,”
the resolutions read.

“These giant sequoia groves are already protected and logging of
giant sequoia has not occurred for decades. … Management decisions for
National Forests should be made locally with the input of those most
directly affected — the local citizens — and all provisions of the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) must be followed,
including the use of public input in all decision-making. … The
present administration is clearly by-passing Congress by attempting to
use the Antiquities Act of 1906.”

Ted James, planning director of Kern County, who recommended to the
supervisors that they come out in opposition, shared his concerns.

“Here’s the thing,” said James. “The president has the power to
utilize the Antiquities Act to designate a national monument. Under that
Act, he has very far-reaching, far-ranging powers. … We want to know
why doesn’t the federal government, why doesn’t the president utilize
due process and go through the NEPA process and have more public process
for future monuments rather than using this old 1906 Antiquities Act as
a way to
come through the back door?

“That’s our primary theme,” he said.

How old is old?

According to the Forest Service, there has been no logging of
sequoias in the national forest since the 1950s, and the groves are
currently managed by that agency under the terms of a 1990 Mediated
Settlement Agreement that was forged by affected state and local
governments, environmental groups and representatives of the timber and
cattle
industries. The agreement bans commercial logging within the groves
themselves, as well as in a 1,000-foot buffer around each grove. In
1992, President Bush issued a proclamation taking the groves — as
mapped by the Mediated Settlement Agreement — out of the commercial
timber base.

“That means you can’t go in there for commercial timber sales,” said
Art Gaffrey, supervisor of Sequoia National Forest.

Gaffrey said logging is permitted within the groves, but only if
certain processes are followed. For instance, an environmental impact
statement must be drafted and approved, and language is put in the
budget bill every year to restrict harvesting of giant sequoia trees.

In his view, a major problem involves the public perception of what a
giant sequoia is.

“People tend to think that all the sequoias are huge and all are
3,000 years old,” he explained. “My impression is that most people, when
they talk about wanting a ban on cutting the giant sequoias, they think
immediately of the very large, oldest giants. But we have giant sequoia
trees on some of the plantations that are five years old, as well as the
old, large icons.”

Bruce Hafenfeld, past president of the Kern County chapter of
California Cattlemen’s Association,
represented that organization during the drafting of the Mediated
Settlement Agreement, which governs the forest logging policy. Like
Carver and other ranchers, he has a permit to run his cattle in the
forest.

Breach of faith

Hafenfeld expressed “disappointment” over what he considers a breach
of faith on the part of those organizations now promoting monument
designation at the White House.

“In 1990, my wife and I were involved with most of the same groups
that are promoting this [monument designation] now,” he says. “We were
the signatories for the Cattlemen’s Association in that process — and
that process took two years to complete. … There were many, many
meetings in different locations to bring these groups of folks together.
These people had appealed the Forest Service’s Land Use Management Plan,
and we were given intervenor status in that.

“Instead of going to court, we went to a mediation process with them
– Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Save the Redwoods,
and so on were all signatories and a part of that process.

“These folks were the experts,” Hafenfeld noted. “We’re cattle people
– not tree people. We listened to them during that process on what was
needed to protect the sequoia redwood groves, and it was decided that
for the mediated settlement a little over 19,000 acres would be set
aside that would encompass all of the grove areas plus a buffer of about
7,000 acres, for a total of 26,000 or 27,000 acres.

“We agreed to that. We signed an agreement to protect the redwoods
for eternity. President Bush in 1992 put a presidential proclamation on
it endorsing that mediated settlement and the acreage that would protect
and set aside those redwoods forever. It’s very hard for me to
understand how they can jump from 27,000 acres to well over 400,000,” he
said.

Nathaniel Lawrence, senior attorney for the New York-based non-profit
Natural Resources Defense Council one of the
main proponents of designation, does not regard the acreage as
excessive.

“That’s really what you need to take care of the whole area, to take
care of the whole biological community, not just the trees but the
forest in which they grow and the associated wildlife and so on,”
Lawrence told WorldNetDaily. “It doesn’t make any sense to save the
trees and not the forest around them.”

In his letter to Glickman, President Clinton directed the secretary
to “please consult with appropriate members of Congress, as well as
tribal, state, and local officials and other interested parties, and
carefully consider their views in making your recommendation.”

Opponents are skeptical their views will have any significant impact.
Nonetheless, they turned out in force at two public forums held by the
Forest Service last month. Over a thousand people showed up at an
all-day event in Fresno, while at least 450 attended an evening affair
in Visalia. An estimated 80 percent of the attendees opposed the
designation, according to separate sources.

“They had different fears,” forest supervisor Gaffrey recalled.
“Generally, fear of losing access [to the forest]. They shared that
fear, and I captured that fear and put it into the summary of public
comments we received.”

Gaffrey said the Forest Service had received numerous postcards and
letters, but could not give any figures.

“The postcards were part of a campaign and all said the same thing –
they opposed it,” he said. “The letters were heavily on the scale of
opposition.”

His report, including the summary of public comments, was sent with
the letters and postcards to Glickman, who forwarded them to the White
House.

“It’s up to them whether they want to release that information,”
Gaffrey said.

Some local congressmen have weighed in against the proposal and are
trying to head it off at the national level.

Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif.

Republican Rep. George Radanovich,
much of whose district falls within the Sequoia National Forest, has
introduced H.R. 4021: that would require
an 18-month study by the National Academy of Sciences on the effects of
Clinton’s sequoia monument proposal, to be conducted before a final
decision is made. Representatives Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield, and Cal
Dooley, D-Hanford, have joined Radanovich as co-sponsors.

“President Clinton and Vice President Gore have determined that only
a monument can save the sequoias,” Radanovich told a House committee
recently. “They are working against science and they are jeopardizing
sound forest management practices by attempting to draw an
administrative line around these trees and limiting management
flexibility.”

“Once again, election season is playing politics with our natural
resources,” he charged.

H.R. 4021 passed the Resources Committee last Wednesday and is before
the full House.

Tribe fears mill shut-down

Duane Garfield, council member and former tribal chair, of the Tule
River Indian Tribe, answered WorldNetDaily with an emphatic, “Yes,
ma’am,” when asked if his people were opposed to the designation.

“Our reservation has a little over 55,000 acres, and approximately
two thirds of the back side of the reservation would be directly in
contact with the proposed monument,” Garfield said, explaining the
tribe’s opposition. The banning of logging in the monument would, in his
view, adversely affect the economy of the reservation.

“It would affect a program we have on the reservation for harvesting
our own timber,” he said. “Should monument designation be put on the
area behind the reservation, it could mean the only mill in our area
might have to shut down. That would make it that much more difficult for
us to do any logging here on the reservation and would mean added costs
for us to transport logs to some other mill.”

“Also,” he continued, “although the Forest Service cannot tell us
whether or not we can log on the reservation, our transportation routes
go off the reservation and through the forest. We have to secure an
agreement with the Forest Service to do that.”

“If they ban logging, they could ban the transportation of logs, he
said, adding, “They are very aware of this and our concerns.”

Not to worry

The National Resources Defense Council’s Lawrence disagrees with the
critics and maintains concerns are not justified as the proposal is
“limited.”

“Those concerns are understandable, and I know are genuinely felt,
but they are based on serious misinformation,” Lawrence said. “The
proposal that the conservation community has advanced and sent to the
White House for the president to direct to the secretary of Agriculture
to look into this possibility is very limited in scope. It is a proposal
to eliminate basically harmful commercial development and one form of
particularly problematic private use.”

Lawrence said NRDC with other groups had recommended that the
monument exclude “logging, mining, and be limited to the existing road
system” of some 1,200 miles of road.

“Otherwise, the forest should be managed pretty much as it is –
other activities like cattle-grazing would go on. And from the outset,
we’ve said that the existence of the monument could not be used by a
federal agency as a reason to kick anybody off this land, to terminate
or decline to renew any special use permits or leases, or to try to take
through eminent domain any private property that in-holders have.”

They’ll choke you out

It will take more than assurances to assuage the fears of the dozen
or so camps in the national forest, those connected with Hume Lake
Christian Camp, one of a dozen camps in the national forest — most of
which are on leases. The camp owns 365 acres, including a small part of
the shoreline of Hume Lake. Thousands of campers come each year for
retreats and conferences. Situated on land homesteaded in the late
1800s, the camp opened 56 years ago, and has served some 900,000
campers.

Jenny Larson, administrative assistant to executive director Dr. Bob
Phillips, explained the organization’s concerns about the proposal and
its potential for making it increasingly difficult to their operation.

“NRDC has told us there’s no need for us to worry — that we’ll be
allowed to stay here and nothing will change,” said Larson. “But we’ve
been studying other monuments and how they’ve been affected by similar
plans. We are drawing our conclusions from history and don’t feel
confident about their ‘don’t worry.’”

Larson cited the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument.

“We’ve learned that people there were promised things at the
beginning — like access for farming — but that has not come through
the way they initially were promised. And roads have been closed,” she
said. Specifically, according to sources, some 65 percent of the roads
in that monument have been closed since monument designation three years
ago.

Larson discussed the impact that designation could have on a few of
the other camps — “There’s
Quaker Meadows [run by the Society of Friends], Pyle’s
Boys Camp which works with inner-city youths, the Boy Scouts and
Bearskin Diabetic Camp. The diabetic camp is one of the only ones in
California. It serves 1,100 diabetic kids a year — kids that normally
can’t go to camp unless they’re medically supervised, and this camp is
providing it [supervision].”

“The difference between those camps and us is that we own our own
property,” she noted. “Most of the other camps are on leases that need
renewal, and it would be easy to simply tell the camps, ‘We’re not going
to renew your lease.’

“Again, they say up front, we’ll continue your lease — but what
we’ve learned from other places is that they slowly but surely choke you
out,” she said.

“They say, you can stay — but then they’ll say, ‘Well, you can’t
ride your bikes on the trails, you can only hike, and you have to stay
on the trails.’ So the restrictions just get narrower and narrower.
Soon, you can’t bring a bus in, which means you can only bring in groups
of 12 — which hurts all the camps because most of us use buses to get
the kids in and out.”

To provide the public with background information about the monument
designation, the camp has developed a website. Larson reported there’s been “good response,”
noting that people who log in and leave messages are “upset that the
president can take something from us or declare something like this
without ever even asking Congress or the people that it affects the most
what we think about it.”

 


Readers can express their views on this or any other public policy
issue at WorldNetDaily’s Legislative Action Center, which provides instant access to state and
federal representatives, media outlets and additional legislative
information.

 


Selected related stories:

Gloria doesn’t get it: the tug-of-war for land

Repeal the Antiquities Act

Hunters ousted from public lands?

A ‘sneak attack’ on property rights

Stealing our children’s birthright

Executive orders go too far?

The next great U.S. land grab?

Clinton’s legacy: Usurping the Constitution

How much is enough?

The great federal land rush

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