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CAMPAIGN 2000

New Parks to Be Scrutinized, Cheney Says

Environment: Timber industry welcomes a pledge to review wilderness lands set aside under Clinton.

August 25, 2000|MICHAEL FINNEGAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — Dick Cheney, the Republican vice presidential nominee, said Thursday that a Bush administration would review President Clinton's designations of vast wilderness areas as national monuments to decide whether to rescind any of them.

"Of course, it's not my decision to make," Cheney told local reporters in rural southern Oregon. "The president-elect will have to make those decisions. But certainly I expect we would review a lot of those decisions to see whether or not any action is appropriate."

Cheney ventured into the conflict between environmentalists and the timber industry on the final leg of a three-day campaign swing through California and Oregon.

During his two terms as president, Clinton has created or expanded 10 national monuments, covering nearly 4 million acres in the West. In April, for example, he put the nation's last stands of ancient sequoia trees off-limits to loggers and miners, setting aside 328,000 acres in Central California as the Giant Sequoia National Monument.

Clinton has used such moves to burnish his legacy, and Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee, has drawn on them to enhance his own credentials as a champion of the environment. In June, Gore rode a speedboat up the Columbia River to trumpet Clinton's designation of Hanford Reach in south-central Washington as a national monument.

But Clinton's wilderness protection orders have drawn the fire of the timber industry, which welcomed Cheney's pledge to review them.

"It's the responsible thing to do," said Chris West, a vice president of the Northwest Forestry Assn., an industry trade group.

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who campaigned Thursday with Cheney at a Future Farmers of America forum on "character" here at Crater High School, also applauded Cheney's remarks.

"These decisions [creating national monuments] poll well, but when you go to the ground and talk to people, they say this is more about the president grabbing land so he can grab a better legacy," Smith said.

But Allen Mattison, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, which has endorsed Gore, said Cheney's remarks "show why this election is so important to people who cherish the Grand Canyon, the grand sequoia trees and the ancient archeological sites that the president has protected.

"They can be undone by the stroke of a pen," he said.

In another conversation with reporters at the high school, Cheney spoke publicly for the first time about the ethical quandary posed by roughly $6 million worth of stock options awarded to him by Halliburton Co., the Texas energy company of which he was chief executive.

Under terms imposed by the company's board, he can cash the options only after various dates over the next three years. The value will fluctuate with the price of Halliburton's stock, so if he is elected vice president, he will hold a major stake in a company with interests around the globe, including such political hot spots as the Middle East.

Still, Cheney said he will hold on to the stock options at least until the election and will find an appropriate way to handle them if he and GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush win. "I do not intend to retain any assets after I'm sworn in that would in any way conflict or create a conflict of interest in my official responsibilities," he said.

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