SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The chairman of the House Resources Committee, Rep. Jim Hansen will retire his seat at the end of the congressional session after 21 years on Capitol Hill.
"With the aid of a great staff, good colleagues and wonderful constituents, I feel we have served the people well and hope my work has been acceptable. After a lot of thought, I feel it is time to move on, and I will not stand for election in 2002," Hansen said in a written statement Tuesday.
A conservative Republican from Utah who worked to keep western lands open for mining and ranching, Hansen was the bane of environmentalists seeking to cordon off land under federal parks statutes.
He opposed, to no avail, President Clinton's use of the Antiquities Act to create national monuments including the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument in southern Utah.
Environmentalists are happy to see him go.
"We look forward to his replacement being a better steward of natural resources, not only in Utah, but in the West," said Owen Lammer of the group Living Rivers.
"Thank God," said Denise Boggs, executive director of the Utah Environmental Congress, calling Hansen "cantankerous.
"He insults people; he is truly an embarrassment to the state of Utah. I've never understood why he kept getting re-elected," Boggs said.
But Republicans in Utah, a state that has only one elected Democrat official in Congress, said they hoped he would reconsider.
"He's in tune with what's close to the district's heart. He's protected Hill Air Force Base. His battles to protect Utah's farmers and ranchers and landowners was a great benefit to our state," Scott Parker, executive director of the Utah Republican Party.
Hansen is credited with saving Hill Air Force Base from the base closings in 1995. As chairman of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Hansen helped repeal the nearly blanket gift ban for Congressmen.
Republicans should not have too much trouble replacing him, however. Kevin Garn, R-Layton, the majority leader in the Utah House of Representatives, is already being named as a successor.
Hansen only faced a tough re-election once during his tenure, and congressional redistricting is unlikely to significantly affect the chances for another Republican candidate.
Before representing the 1st congressional district in northern Utah, Hansen served in the state House for eight years, the last two as Speaker of the House. Earlier in his career, Hansen served for a dozen years in the Farmington City Council.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.