Secrets: In the summer of 1995, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance issues
director Ken Rait escorted Katie McGinty through the area that
would become the new national monument. Gore and McGinty had adopted
the 5 million-plus acre wilderness goals for the area that had
been urged by SUWA and its prescriptive foundation funders.
A sense of urgency pervaded this visit: the Republicans now controlled
Congress, and the Utah delegation was supporting a bill that proposed
to designate 2.1 million acres as wilderness instead of the 5
million-plus acres the administration wanted.
McGinty was on vacation in and around the area for the better
part of two weeks. A newspaper account said Rait used the visit
as an opportunity to lobby McGinty for preservation and that she
was struck by the beauty of the region. McGinty appears to have
discussed the possibility of designating the area a national monument
with SUWA officials, the Sierra Club, and other environmental
groupselection year was coming up, and green groups were not
happy with Clinton and the timber rider.
At about the same time, Bruce Babbitts Interior Department began
to study the details of using a national monument to trump Congress.
SUWA and other environmental groups had a direct line into Babbitts
office through his special assistant, Geoff Webb, who previously
worked for Friends of the Earth and had spent considerable time
in Utah for the environmental group working on nuclear waste storage
and coal leasing issues. Webb had served as Bureau of Land Management
Deputy Director for External Affairs during Jim Bacas abrasive
nine-month tenure as BLM Director, and got assigned to Babbitt
after Baca was fired in February of 1994 for antagonizing ranchers,
loggers, miners, property owners and practically everyone else
in the resource class.
The evidence that staff at Interior discussed the monument idea
near the time McGinty toured Utah with Ken Rait is clear: In July
of 1995, Interior Department Solicitor John Leshy assigned staff
attorneys to evaluate the legalities of national monument designation,
particularly the details of how to avoid the lengthy environmental
review required by NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act
of 1969. Dave Watts and Robert Baum studied the issue and reported
back on August 3, 1995:
To the extent the Secretary proposes a national monument, NEPA
applies. However, monuments proposed by the president do not require
NEPA compliance because NEPA does not cover presidential actions.
To the extent that the president directs that a proclamation be
drafted and an area withdrawn as a monument, he may direct the
Secretary of the Interior to be part of the presidents staff
and to undertake and complete all the administrative support.
This Interior work falls under the presidential umbrella.
Why would anyone in the Clinton administration want to know how
to declare a national monument without environmental compliance?
The only plausible answer is to avoid a public process and act
The proposal for a national monument in Utah thus originated with
the Interior Department. Now the problem was how to create a paper
trail to make it look like the idea came directly from the president.
The presidential umbrella they required, of course, was held by
Katie McGinty. As election year began to heat up, she held a series
of meetings with her staff on the Utah national monument plan.
The Paper Chase: On March 18, 1996, McGinty and her staff discussed creating a
fake letter from the president to Bruce Babbitt. McGinty was in
a hurry because she wanted to announce the new national monument
in April, preferably as part of Earth Day celebrations. James
Craig Crutchfield in the Office of Management and Budget drafted
the letter and Linda Lance, CEQ Director for Land Management,
edited it. Lance sent a cover e-mail with the letter to McGinty
and six staffers, explaining:
Attached is a letter to Babbit [sic] as we discussed yesterday
that makes clear that the Utah monument action is one generated
by the Executive Office of the President, not the agency.
Their phony letter began:
Dear Secretary Babbitt:
The President has asked that we contact you to request information
within the expertise of your agency. As you know, the Congress
currently is considering legislation that would remove significant
portions of public lands in Utah from their current protection
as wilderness study areas. Protection of these lands is one of
the highest environmental priorities of the Clinton Administration.
Lance was not sure this was the best approach, and asked at the
end of her cover e-mail, Also, do we know whether the canyonlands and arches areas were
considering would be affected by the Utah wilderness bill?
McGinty told Lance this approach wouldnt work. Back to the drawing
board. The next day Lance sent an e-mail to McGinty and four key
staffers (reproduced here without editing or corrections):
I completely agree that this cant be pitched as our answer to
their utah bill. but Im having trouble deciding where we go from
here. if we delink from utah but limit our request for info to
utah, why? if we instead request info on all sites that might
be covered by the antiquities act, we probably get much more than
were probably ready to act on, including some that might be more
compelling than the utah parks? am i missing something or lacking
in creativity? is there another utah hook? whatdya think?
Im getting concerned that if were going to do this we need to
get this letter going tomorrow. almost everything else is pretty
much ready to go to the president for decision, although some
drafting of the formal documents like pres. memos still needs
to be done.
The first fake letter didnt fly. The Justice Department wanted
a broader presidential request to insure that Interiors administrative
record would be sufficient to stand up in court if challenged,
but Lance rejected the idea and wrote a new bogus letter, which
she sent with the following e-mail:
Attached is a minimalist approach to the letter to Babbitt. Contrary
to what justice may have suggested, I think its important that
he [the president] limit the inquiry to lands covered by the antiquities
act, since thats the area in which he can act unilaterally. To
make a broader request risks scaring people, and/or promising
followup we cant deliver.
I realized the real remaining question is not so much what this
letter says, but the political consequences of designating these
lands as monuments when theyre not threatened with losing wilderness
status, and theyre probably not the areas of the country most
in need of this designation. Presidents have not used their monument
designation authority in this way in the pastonly for large dramatic
parcels that are threatened. Do we risk a backlash from the bad
guys if we do thesedo they have the chance to suggest that this
administration could use this authority all the time all over
the country, and start to argue that the discretion is too broad?
Id like to get your view, and political affairs, on this. Maybe
Im overreacting, but I think we need to consider that issue.
Lances remarks were prescient, because once the monument was
designated and the secrecy of its creation became known, Congress
indeed argued that the presidents national monument proclamation
power was too broad, and the House passed a bill to rein it in.
McGinty had the timber rider to worry about and this Utah letter
problem was depressing her. On March 25, she e-mailed her staff:
Im increasingly of the view that we should just drop these Utah
ideas. We do not really know how the enviros will react and I
do think there is a danger of abuse of the withdraw/antiquities
authorities especially because these lands are not really endangered.
The urgency of re-election overcame McGintys serious doubts:
she immediately agreed to let Linda Lance and another CEQ staffer,
Tom Jensen, meet with Interior staff to iron things out. Only
four days later she sent a memo to President Clinton recommending
that he sign an attached letter to Babbitt (by this time it was
the fourth draft).
There is no indication Clinton ever saw this memo.
Adding Escalante: The meeting of Lance and Jensen with Interior staff in the Secretarys
conference room was productive. An e-mail reported:
They discussed three new candidates for National Monument designation
in Utah (Kaiparowits, Grand Gulch, and Escalante), each with pros
and cons, and Interior agreed to review these options further.
Interior/NPS complained that their park proposal was morphing
into a Utah proposal, but Tom and Linda dismiss this complaint.
The new areas were significant because they had long been advocated
for protection by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and its
prescriptive foundation funders. However, the e-mail added:
According to Linda Lance, the Parks Initiative is not currently
on the Presidents schedule and no event is likely before the
Presidents mid-April international trip. May/June is a more realistic
timeframe. Interior may not be happy about this, but they created
a false urgency by citing a pending Gingrich parks proposal. (It
now appears that the only imminent Republican proposal is the
Senate Omnibus lands bill, which is on hold because of Utah wilderness.)
Gold Mine Sweeper: The May/June date didnt materialize. Katie McGinty was deep
in another controversy, this one involving Yellowstone National
Park. In 1989, Crown Butte Mines, Inc. proposed to develop a Montana
site known as the New World Mine near Yellowstone Park. Grant-driven
green groups denounced the project as a threat to the Yellowstone
ecosystem, even though the mine was two miles downstream from
the nearest park boundary.
To prevent the mines development, Superintendent of Yellowstone
National Park Michael Finley had worked with 14 environmental
groups and invited the United Nations World Heritage Committee
to investigate the threat posed to Yellowstone by the proposed
Crown Butte mine. The U.N. team recommended a huge buffer zone
around the park and on December 5, 1995, placed Yellowstone on
its list of sites in danger though even the Draft Environmental
Impact Statement had not yet been completed.
Bruce Babbitt touted the designation as merely an attention-getting
gesture to stop the mine, but Congress wondered how such administration
moves affected U.S. sovereignty, particularly the power of congressional
oversight. The House passed a bill to control such United Nations
designations on United States property.
Katie McGinty went behind the scenes brokering a complex deal
to stop the New World Mine, trying to get Crown Butte executives
to agree to a land swap in return for its rights to an estimated
$650 million in gold. The company would get federal land worth
$65 million, but Crown Butte would agree to set aside $22.5 million
to clean up water pollution problems at the mine site, almost
all of which was private property not subject to the mining law.
The company had invested about $37 million in exploration, permits
and engineering, but the foundation-funded Greater Yellowstone
Coalition had kept the project on hold for six years.
And Bruce Babbitt kept complaining about the antiquated Mining
Act of 1872 that allowed big corporations to claim federal land
for only $5 an acre, never explaining all the later general mining
laws that made such cheap land such an expensive investment.
McGinty was hoping for an agreement that could be announced during
the presidents vacation in August.
Back to the Fake Letters: The Utah project heated up again in mid-July, when it looked
like the opportunity for a presidential event to announce the
national monument would be coming soon. Tom Jensen wrote yet another
draft of the fake Babbitt letter and sent it with the following
e-mail to fellow CEQ staffer Peter G. Umhofer on July 23:
Peter, I need your help.
The following text needs to be transformed into a singed [sic]
POTUS [President of the United States] letter ASAP. The letter
does not need to be sent, it could be held in an appropriate office
(Katies? Todd Sterns?) but it must be prepared and signed ASAP.
You should discuss the processing of the letter with Katie, given
The rewrite of the fake letter was by this time merely a matter
of changing tiny details for the paper trail. Jensen also supplied
a cover letter for Katie McGinty to send to the POTUS recommending
that he sign the attached Babbitt letter. McGinty was pleased
with the result. Three days later, Interior Solicitor John Leshy
sent a memo to Charles Wilkinson, a University of Colorado professor
enlisted to write the legal proclamation establishing the monument.
It warned him any public release of information could prevent
the monument from being formed.
Both Interior and CEQ had assurances that the White House would
approve an announcement soon. Feeling the time pressure, McGinty
e-mailed the following to CEQ staffer Todd Stern on July 29:
The president will do the Utah event on Aug. 17. However, we still
need to get the letter signed ASAP. The reason: under the antiquities
act, we need to build a credible record that will withstand legal
challenge that: (1) the president asked the secy to look into
these lands to see if they are of important scientific, cultural
or historic value; (2) the secy undertook that review and presented
the results to the president; (3) the president found the review
compelling and therefore exercised his authority under the antiquities
act. presidential actions under this act have always been challenged.
they have never been struck down, however.
So, letter needs to be signed ASAP so that secy has what looks
like a credible amount of time to do his investigation of the
matter. we have opened the letter with a sentence that gives us
some more room by making clear that the president and babbitt
had discussed this some time ago.
That August 17 date didnt work, but this time the Office of the
President got the Babbitt letter and White House Chief of Staff
Leon Panetta responded to itbut he knew nothing about it and
needed to be briefed. Katie McGinty e-mailed Marcia Hale, staffer
at the White House:
Leon Panetta asked that I prepare talking points for you to use
in making calls to certain western elected officials regarding
the proposed Utah event.
My notes indicate that Leon wanted you to call Governor Roy Romer,
Governor Bob Miller, former Governor Mike Sullivan, former Governor
Ted Schwinden, Senator Harry Reid, Senator Richard Bryan, and
Representative Bill Richardson to test the waters and gather their
The reactions to these calls, and other factors, will help determine
whether the proposed action occur. If a final decision has been
made on the event, and any public release of the information would
probably foreclose the Presidents option to proceed.
Polling these Democrat politicalsnone from Utahand other factors
(which included Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Sierra
Club, and select foundation funders) got positive responses.
POTUS Clinton signed the fake Babbitt letter on August 7, evidently
no more aware of its deceptive history than Panetta had been.
Clintons attention was on his vacation to Yellowstone National
Park. McGinty had finished the negotiations with Crown Butte.
On August 12 he announced to the nationwhile the Republicans
were nominating Bob Dole as their presidential candidate in San
Diego that his administration had just saved a national park
with a land trade.
Clinton told the audience of dignitaries and celebrities including
the late John Denver: The agreement that has been reached with
Crown Butte to terminate this project altogether proves that everyone
can agree that Yellowstone is more precious than gold.
At the end of his speech, Clinton had Katie McGinty sign the agreement
with Crown Butte executives to the applause of all.
The day after the Yellowstone announcement, Clinton asked McGinty
for information about the proposed Utah announcement event.
On August 14, 1996, the day before the now-unnecessary Warner
Creek protesters would be arrested, and three months before the
presidential election, Katie McGinty wrote to President Clinton:
PURPOSE OF THE UTAH EVENT
The political purpose of the Utah event is to show distinctly
your willingness to use the office of the President to protect
the environment. In contrast to the Yellowstone ceremony, this
would not be a feel-good event. You would not merely be rebuffing
someone elses bad idea, you would be placing your own stamp,
sending your own message. It is our considered assessment that
an action of this type and scale would help to overcome the negative
views toward the Administration created by the timber rider. Designation
of the new monument would create a compelling reason for persons
who are now disaffected to come around and enthusiastically support
Establishment of the new monument will be popular nationally in
the same way and for the same reasons that other actions to protect
parks and public lands are popular. The nationwide editorial attacks
on the Utah delegations efforts to strip wilderness protection
from these and other lands is a revealing recent test of public
interest in Utahs wild lands. In addition, the new monument will
have particular appeal in those areas that contribute most visitation
to the parks and public lands of southern Utah, namely, coastal
California, Oregon, and Washington, southern Nevada, the Front
Range communities of Colorado, the Taos-Albuquerque corridor,
and the Phoenix-Tucson area. This assessment squares with the
positive reactions by Sen. Reid, Gov. Romer, and Rep. Richardson
when asked their views on the proposal.
Opposition to the designation will come from some of the same
parties who have generally opposed the Administrations natural
resource and environmental policies and who, in candor, are unlikely
to support the Administration under any circumstances. It would
draw fire from interests who would characterize it as anti-mining,
and heavy-handed Federal interference in the West. Gov. Millers
concern that Nevadas sagebrush rebels would not approve of the
new monument is almost certainly correct, and echoes the concerns
of other friends, but can be offset by the positive response in
Ken Rait of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance was in Washington
while McGinty prepared this memo for Clinton. He says he knew
nothing of it.
Lies: Three weeks later, in a time-honored ritual common to the Washington
scene, the Utah monument plan was leaked to the press, in this
case to Tom Kenworthy of the Washington Post. McGinty notified
the White House and her staff on Friday, September 6:
We learned late today that the Washington Post is going to run
a story this weekend reporting that the administration is considering
a national monument designation. I understand that there are no
quotes in the story, so it is based only on the word about town.
I have called several members of Congress to give them notice
of this story and am working with political affairs to determine
if there are Democratic candidates we should alert. We are neither
confirming nor denying the story; just making sure that Democrats
are not surprised.
Stunned disbelief was the immediate response by members of Utahs
congressional delegation and Utahs Republican governor, Michael
Leavitt. None had an inkling that the president was even thinking
about establishing an almost 2,700-square-mile preserve in the
red-rock wild lands of south-central Utah.
Environmentalists and the Washington Post knew all about it. Post
reporter Tom Kenworthy sent the following e-mail to CEQ staffer
Brian Johnson after writing the leaked story, asking for more
Brian: So when pressed by Mark Udall and Maggie Fox on the Utah
monument at yesterdays private ceremony for [Arizona Representative]
Mo [Udall], Clinton said: You dont know when to take yes for
an answer. Sounds to me like its going forward. I also hear
[Colorado Governor] Romer is pushing the president to announce
it when hes in Colorado on Wednesday. Give me a heads up if its
imminentI cant write another story saying its likely to happen,
but it would be nice to know when its going to happen for planning
purposesTom Kenworthy. ps: thanks for the packet.
Local governments in Utah went crazy with their congressional
delegation, which scurried to find out what was going on, especially
Representative Bill Orton, the only Democrat. He was sure this
was going to cost him his seat in the coming election (it did).
Nobody could learn anything.
Governor Leavitt got the story by fax on Sunday, the day after
it appeared on page 3A of the Washington Post. On Monday he called
Bruce Babbitt asking about the monument plan. I dont know,
said Babbitt. Call the White House, thats their thing. Leavitt
called the White House. At first they said it was a mistake, but
said theyd get back to him.
It was Wednesday before a staffer returned his call. Yes, was
the message. Theres a serious proposal, but no decision.
Leavitt asked: Whats the timing?
The staffer waffled. Bad sign. It sounds like a policy decisions
been made, he told the staffer. I need to come to Washington
to see Panetta, or the president.
While Leavitt was getting nothing from this staffer, Tom Kenworthy
of the Washington Post e-mailed Brian Johnson of Katie McGintys
staff this short, cheerful message:
south rim of the grand canyon, sept 18be there or be square
Leavitt got a White House appointment for the next Tuesday and
flew to Washington the Sunday before. On Monday, Ken Rait of Southern
Utah Wilderness Alliance told the governor that there would be
an event at the Grand Canyon.
Rait later said he couldnt remember conveying the message.
The governor does remember.
The Tuesday White House meeting brought out Leon Panetta and Katie
McGinty. For half an hour Leavitt, with state planner Brad Barber
assisting, explained his own plan for the region, years in preparation,
and begged them to hold off, saying that he needed to talk to
The Deseret News published the following account of what happened
next from an interview with Leavitt:
[Panetta] says dont be too harsh on the president because theres
still time for your input.
Panetta tells Leavitt, You made a very compelling case, adding
that Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, has also made a strong argument
against the proposal.
It is clear to me that Bill has put in some licks, Leavitt says.
I said, If this is compelling, then the President of the United
States needs to know that he is setting aside a part of my state
that is equal in size to Rhode Island, Delaware and Washington,
D.C., put together.
Leavitt is exaggerating but only by a few thousand acres. Panettas
He was very surprised, says Leavitt, who, with Panetta, pores
over a map of the area, color-coded to show private, state and
What are these little blue squares? wonders Panetta, pointing
out the dozens of sections of state trust lands that would be
claimed by the monument.
Leavitt said, I need to talk to the president...and [Panetta]
says, Stay by the phone.
The president was off campaigning in Illinois and hard to reach.
Leavitt stayed near the phone. At midnight in his hotel room,
Leavitt gave up and turned in.
At 2:00 a.m. his phone rang.
Governor, the President of the United States.
They talked for half an hour. Leavitt realized the monument would
happen no matter what he did. So he offered to draft a memo recommending
a commission of state and local government officials to set boundaries
and to solve a number of management questions.
Clinton said, Go ahead.
U.S. News & World Report reported that both Leon Panetta and senior
presidential adviser George Stephanopolous expressed strong doubts
This could cost Orton his congressional seat, Panetta fumed, angry
that his former House colleague and fellow Democrat had been kept
out of the information loop by a sneaky McGinty. Panetta said
hed recommend that the president not go through with the plan.
Stephanopoulos concurred. McGinty flared and threatened to quit,
yelling that it was the right thing to do and too late to stop
McGinty later said the story was not at all true. U.S. News stands
by its story.
On September 18, Bill Clinton flew to the South Rim of the Grand
Canyon and announced the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante
National Monument to an audience of hundreds of environmentalists
and celebrities including Robert Redford, who knew where to be
The administration had to honor decade-old mining leases to the
Dutch firm Andalex Resources Inc., but said it had the authority
to deny ancillary permits the firm would need to build roads on
federal lands to get the mined coal out.
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch called it the mother of all land-grabs.
The House Resources Committee began a congressional investigation
of the secrecy and lies behind the new national monument. They
asked for documents. They waited six months. Chairman Don Young
obtained subpoena power and sent federal marshals to the White
House at midnight to get the memos you have read in this account.
Katie McGinty handled all environmental issues much the same way.
When she departed the CEQ in November 1998, her list of achievements
The trail of human despair she left in rural America was longer.
For editorial purposes, footnote references have been omitted.
All citations and references can be found in the complete text
of Undue Influence by Ron Arnold, an in-depth, thoroughly documented study of the
wealthy foundations, grant-driven environmental groups and zealous
bureaucrats that control your future. Copies of this compelling
325-page book are available through RANGE for $16.95 plus $1.60 S&H. Send $18.55 to RANGE, P.O. Box 639, Carson City, NV 89702 or call 1-800-726-4348.
Undue Influence should be required reading for anyone concerned with this countrys
Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense
of Free Enterprise in Bellevue, Wash. His books and articles have
earned notice from Time, People, U.S. News & World Report, Outside,
the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Washington
Post, and Los Angeles Times. He has appeared on all major network
evening news broadcasts, as well as ABC News Nightline, and CBS
News 60 Minutes.
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from the author.