It might not reach Arctic Refuge-proportions in its intensity, but a battle being joined today by the Bush administration over national monuments promises to be a doozy. It will encompass debates about everything from oil drilling to dirt bike-riding, and will pit Western lawmakers, landowners, and the recreational-vehicle industry — all of whom generally want as few restrictions as possible on monument lands — against environmentalists, who hope to protect the areas with strict management plans. Over the objections of many Republicans, former President Clinton created 19 national monuments covering more than 5 million acres of federal land in the West. The Bush administration initially considered scaling back the monuments, but met with public resistance and opted to revise management plans instead. This week, Interior Secretary Gale Norton is formally soliciting input from state and local officials and residents in drafting the plans; environmentalists fear the process will grant too loud a voice to anti-monument property owners, businesses, and developers.
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