Americans can expect to see more areas in the western U.S. protected as national monuments in the coming year, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said yesterday. Such designations can be made without congressional approval; Pres. Clinton angered western politicians in 1996 by creating the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. Babbitt spoke at a congressional hearing on a bill by Rep. Bob Stump (R-Ariz.) that seeks to head off creation of the Shivwits Plateau National Monument in Arizona by creating a national conservation area instead, which Babbitt said would give the land even less protection than it has now. Babbitt also criticized a bill by Rep. Jim Hansen (R-Utah) yesterday that would create nearly 1.1 million acres of wilderness in western Utah, saying it would give the Air Force too much control over areas used for training flights. Still, Babbitt voiced strong support for the acreage and boundary provisions in Hansen’s bill, though enviros say the acreage is far too low.