Gore Announces New U.S. Monuments
RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) _ Wind mussing his hair, Vice President Al Gore sped up the Columbia River Friday in a boat named ``Can Do II,″ turning the administration’s designation of new national monuments into a campaign event.
The Democratic presidential candidate saluted local preservationists who have fought for three decades to protect the Columbia’s Hanford Reach, a 51-mile stretch of salmon-rich waters and sloping sandstone bluffs. It once served as a security buffer for Hanford, where the government made plutonium for the nation’s Cold War nuclear arsenal.
``Sometimes the effort must have seemed like you yourselves were swimming upstream,″ Gore said. ``But your ship’s come in. I don’t want to get too many metaphors in here, but this is a good day.″
Hours before Gore, in blue jeans, made a 16-mile tour of the Columbia and addressed a riverbank gathering, President Clinton made the formal monument designations at the White House.
The designations were made under the Antiquities Act, which allows creation of monuments on federal land for scientific or historic reasons. Also chosen:
_ Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou, including Soda Mountain and nearby lands where plant and animal life are abundant.
_ The Canyons of the Ancients, nine miles west of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.
_ The Ironwood Forest, a 129,000-acre area northwest of Tucson, Ariz., that is filled with stands of ironwood trees.
Gore’s courtship Friday of the Pacific Northwest _ emerging as a battleground in the race against Republican George W. Bush _ was an exhaustive one. He left Los Angeles at 6 a.m. for a 12-hour day of campaigning across Washington state.
In Seattle, Gore was recounting the administration’s economic record in an address to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He also was the headliner at a state Democratic Party dinner in Spokane before returning to the nation’s capital on an overnight flight.
Rich Steele, a retired engineer from the Hanford nuclear plant, piloted the small motor boat that cruised Gore and the state’s top Democrats, Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Gary Locke, up the river. ``After all these years, I just want it protected from development,″ Steele said.
Gore was stopping by a re-election fund-raiser for Locke before leaving Seattle.
The vice president promised, if elected, to convene a ``summit″ to decide the controversial question of breaching four dams across the Snake River in Washington to help save the region’s famous but endangered salmon.
``I will bring together all interested parties to find a real solution. Mine will be an inclusive approach based on solid science _ the kind of approach that is working right now in coastal areas like the Puget Sound,″ Gore said.
Industry and labor officials say that breaching the dams, as environmentalists suggest, would threaten farming, other businesses and jobs. Demonstrators with signs that read, ``Don’t Gore our Dams,″ greeted the vice president here in southeast Washington.
Bush has pledged to block any attempt to breach the dams and his campaign criticized Gore Friday for not taking a position.
``Al Gore continues to demonstrate weak leadership on an important issue,″ said Bush spokesman Dan Barlett.
Meanwhile, in Boise, Idaho, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader also urged the breaching of the dams.
Washington Sen. Slade Gorton, a Republican, and county commissioners in Hanford’s three surrounding counties oppose the federal designation of the Hanford Reach, arguing that such decisions should take into account the views of local residents.
The Hanford nuclear site is a priority Superfund area for future cleanup, and Gore said, ``Let me tell you I am committed to making sure that we continue to clean up the Cold War legacy of contamination on this land.″