Cheney says some national monument decisions could be rescinded

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. - Republican vice presidential hopeful Dick Cheney raised the possibility Thursday that some of the new national monuments created by President Clinton could be reviewed and possibly rescinded if he and George W. Bush are elected in November.

''Of course it's not my decision to make. It's the president-elect who has to make the decision,'' Cheney said, commenting on what is a hot topic in the West. ''But I certainly expect we would review a lot of these decisions to see whether or not any action was appropriate.''

He said Clinton has used his executive authority ''willy-nilly all over the West'' to create national monuments without considering the desires of the people who will be affected.

Many fear that creating monument after monument could harm the Western economy by removing land from commercial uses like grazing, logging and mining.

During his time in office, Clinton has created or added to 10 national monuments covering nearly 4 million Western acres in his effort to carve out an environmental legacy.

Cheney said that as a congressman from Wyoming he helped get 1 million acres designated as wilderness - but only after listening to all sides.

''We need to strike a balance. We need an opportunity for all to be heard,'' he said.

Later, after flying to Portland, Cheney rebutted Democratic claims that as president Bush would only appoint Supreme Court justices who favor outlawing abortion.

''We don't have any litmus test when it comes time to pick judges,'' Cheney told The Associated Press in a brief interview. He said that while he and Bush both oppose abortion, ''we recognize that is a tough issue for people on both sides of the issue.''

While in Central Point, Cheney, formerly chief executive of the oil services firm Halliburton Co., addressed the issue of exploiting new oil fields while protecting surrounding ecosystems.

He said new drilling techniques make it possible to tap oil fields beneath the Alaska National Wildlife Arctic Refuge while leaving ''minimal environmental footprints.''

Democratic presidential rival Al Gore opposes opening the Alaskan refuge to oil drilling.

Cheney said the United States must find new sources for oil because domestic production from existing fields declines annually.

He was greeted at the airport in nearby Medford by a group of college-age protesters in cocktail dresses and tuxedos pretending to be billionaires with names such as ''Hue G. Payough'' and ''Ivana Ownu.''

The group called itself ''Billionaires for Bush,'' part of a nonpartisan spoof by United for a Fair Economy to draw attention to campaign spending and growing financial inequality.

Earlier, Cheney extolled the virtues of the family farm to about 150 people at Crater High School, including members of the school's Future Farmers of America organization. He said one reason a Bush-Cheney administration would abolish the estate tax would be to help farmers ''pass on from one generation to the next their farms and ranches.''

''It's not just the sheer number of people in agriculture. It's the values we want to preserve,'' Cheney said, recalling his childhood in rural Nebraska and relatives who were farmers.

''We don't want a situation where all we have are large corporate farms,'' he said.


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