This Land Is Our Land. End of Story

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It's a photo op no savvy pol would want to miss: The Grand Canyon, glowing orange and red in the fading sunlight, gaping and huge and entirely... American. And since no one has ever accused Bill Clinton of being less than savvy, there he was Tuesday, perched on the edge of the chasm, announcing his decision to designate three new national monuments, including land along the north ridge of the canyon, and to also expand an existing site. And while the assignation of national monuments often yields little more than a pretty picture, this case is a bit different.

While the areas are already federal lands, Clinton's pronouncement will help keep them pristine by banning activities such as mining and logging that are commonly allowed on government property throughout the West. The news was met with glee from the environmental nonprofit sector, and with fierce grumbling from Arizona's anti-establishment ranching and mining contingent. Eager to supplement his list of environmental accomplishments, the President used Teddy Roosevelt's 1906 Antiquities Act to create the monuments — a move that enabled him to bypass Congress and a potentially messy battle with Republicans eager to protect ranching and mining interests. "It's no secret this decision really pisses off western ranchers and miners who want to maintain their grazing and mining rights," says TIME science editor Philip Elmer-DeWitt. And Arizona's Republican power structure isn't too pleased about it either; Arizona's governor, along with John McCain and local officials, fought against Clinton's planned "unilateral" move, encouraging the President to include Arizona voters in the decision-making process.

Although a poll conducted by the Wilderness Society indicates that more than 68 percent of Arizonans support the President's decision, TIME Denver correspondent Dick Woodbury says there are still plenty of "rank-and-file, conservative activist ranchers who are upset they weren't consulted before the announcement was made." And while a spokesperson from the Department of the Interior insists that only logging, clear-cutting and mining will be banned from the affected land, there are plenty of ranchers worried about their grazing rights. "This is a symptom of some westerners' inherent antipathy toward Washington and people from the East coming in and telling them how to do things," says Woodbury. Or, in this case, how not to do things.