Environmental Issues Focal Point in White House

By Cheryl K. Chumley | July 7, 2008 | 8:27pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - With the eyes of the nation on Florida and the election process, President Bill Clinton has been concentrating on the passage of environmental measures that he promised weeks ago would shape his legacy.

In a Saturday radio address, Clinton announced plans to develop a new clean air initiative for power plants and said he will refocus on uniting with other nations in the battle against global warming.

Those statements followed the passage of an Oct. 30 measure, signed by Clinton, providing for "additional protections" for 425,000 acres of Oregon lands previously designated as federal properties, according to the White House Internet site. The legislation also restricts mining activities on 900,000 acres, including the 425,000 acres designated for extra protection.

Called the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act, the legislation mandates an advisory council consisting of "local ranchers, environmentalists, recreational users, ... [and] federal land managers" to develop "new approaches to meet the area's human and ecological needs," White House statements read.

Specifically, the act abolishes cattle grazing on 156,000 acres of the preserve, prohibits mining and mineral leasing activities on the entire 900,000 acre tract, restricts the use of recreational vehicles, and protects "two new wild rivers, Wildhorse and Kiger Creek."

The legislation also allows for "grazing, recreation, historic, and other uses [of the land] in areas where [those activities] are sustainable," and for private landowners to acquire some of the acreage labeled "pristine."

Just three months ago, Clinton approved a similar initiative declaring 90,000 acres of New Mexico ranch land as a national preserve. At that time, Nancy Marzulla, the president of the group, Defenders of Property Rights, said the act violated the Constitution.

"When you think about political power," she said of the 90,000 acre Baca Ranch measure, "it really rests upon private ownership. It's really about the power of the individual versus the power of ... the government."

The subject of Clinton's Saturday address has also been one of controversy.

"The scientific consensus is clear: the earth is warming and there is strong evidence that human activity is part of the reason why," Clinton said, as a prelude to introducing a scientific report on the greenhouse effect and advisements to tighten standards for the emissions of mercury and carbon dioxide, two gasses seen as key contributors to the problem known as acid rain.

"I'm calling for a dramatic new approach to reducing air pollution from America's power plants, a comprehensive new clean air strategy that will produce significant reductions in the emissions that contribute to global warming," he continued.

But many scientists have tried to debunk claims that the earth's temperatures have risen in the past years, labeling the research used as flawed and calling efforts to blame humans for global warming an act of political correctness

"Warming 1,000 years ago was greater than anything we've seen in the last century," said atmospheric physicist and Science and Environmental Policy Project President S. Fred Singer, during an earlier interview on the global warming topic. "We don't accept [that the 20th Century is experiencing widespread, detrimental warming]. We challenge this."

Regardless, the leaders of more than 160 nations are meeting this week at The Hague in the Netherlands to discuss global warming and debate the merits of a worldwide environmental protection strategy, according to the White House Internet site.

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