Environmentalists, wary of a meeting between Gov. Norm Bangerter and President Reagan next week, say the public may be ignored in a decision to trade land with the federal government at Lake Powell.
Bangerter announced Thursday he will meet with Reagan on Tuesday to, among other things, discuss whether the president could authorize the trade without congressional approval.The state wants to exchange land within Capitol Reef National Park and Glen Canyon Recreation Area with federal land on the shores of Lake Powell. Bangerter hopes to encourage construction that would attract more visitors to Utah's side of the lake.
The trade would provide the state more money from tourism, state officials said.
But George Nickas, assistant coordinator for the Utah Wilderness Association, said Thursday the public and Congress should be involved in any land exchange affecting the environment.
Nickas and other environmentalists oppose the trade, as does the director of the National Parks Service.
"It isn't proper if what the governor is trying to do is sneak something through in the waning days of the (Reagan) administration," Nickas said. "As the governor of the state he has a responsibility to give everyone the opportunity to hear this issue."
Environmentalists also believe it may be too late to get congressional support for the land trade during this session.
State officials say Utah needs facilities along the lake to manage the large number of people who already visit the Utah areas. New facilities would make the area more sanitary than it now is, thus preserving the environment.
Not all environmentalists oppose building more facilities, but they do oppose any deal to trade property within one national park for property in another.
"The idea is to trade out state lands that are inside federal reservations, not to trade for other lands within federal reservations," said Darrell Knuffke, central Rockies regional director for the Wilderness Society.
Nickas said more recreation areas may be needed around Lake Powell, "but the land exchange isn't the way to do that."
Earlier this year, National Park Service Director William Penn Mott said the land exchange would attract more people than the area could handle. Bangerter hopes to persuade Reagan to change Mott's opinion.
"If the Parks Service is the agency that is charged with managing those areas, their concerns have to account for something," Nickas said.
State officials said they hope to at least get Reagan to support a bill authorizing the trade.
Bangerter said he is scheduled to meet with Reagan for only 15 minutes. He also wants to discuss transportation issues.