WASHINGTON, D.C., FEBRUARY 1—The hidden hand behind Interior Secretary Gale Norton is a Utah congressman named James Hansen, who chairs the House Resources Committee. While Norton was all misty eyed about the beauteous West in her confirmation hearings, the Republican Hansen, in a letter to both Bush and Cheney, got down to business: “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.”
Here’s what Hansen wants to do:
Bring back snowmobiles and “personal water vehicles”—Congress-speak for jet skis—which have been banned in national parks.
Stress “user enjoyment”—not just conservation—as the guide to running national parks. Translation: Open the parks to more development.
Deep-six new rules forcing mining companies, who pay no royalties for digging up the public domain, to clean up after themselves.
Nix new rules aimed at putting a stop to sweetheart contracts between big oil companies and the government. Hansen would preserve the practice of selling to the energy firms at cut-rate prices.
Drop Clinton’s strict rules limiting air tours in the Grand Canyon.
Review Clinton’s eleventh-hour national monument designations to ensure “each designation is warranted, completed in an open and fair manner, and has the approval of Congress.” Hansen adds menacingly: “Vice President Elect Cheney and I have had a conversation about how to deal with these millions of acres of new designations which circumvented the public process and the legislative process.” Bottom line: Ditch the parks.