Environmental bulletin board:

More on the sandhills - I've been hiking on Wellsville Mountain near Brigham City lately, and from time to time, I see these magnificent cranes flying slowly above the salt marsh. A convoy of them looks like pterodactyls - huge creatures with long necks, legs sticking behind, and strange triangular wings.Nothing shows more contempt for the inherent value of wildlife than the Division of Wildlife Resources' plan to allow hunters to kill them again, after more than 70 years of protection. The proposal aroused a storm of controversy, and the DWR now says it will reconsider its decision.

I'd be willing to bet that many hunters who put venison on the table don't like the idea of blasting away at sandhill cranes.

In the same press release announcing it will hear the public next week on the subject, the DWR prints a long justification of the sandhill hunt.

"There is also a philosophical and financial basis for this hunt that many people don't understand or ignore," writes Tom Aldrich, DWR waterfowl coordinator. "That is the fact that 98 percent of the revenues used to manage waterfowl (including cranes) are generated by hunters."

This is not an issue of taxation without representation, it's a matter of state responsibility for animals.

So hunters buy permits and duck stamps. So they pay for their pleasure. Does that justify shooting new species? What's next, eagles?

If hunters don't like it, nobody forces them to shoot our wildlife. They can decline to participate. It's voluntary. That's how it differs from taxation.

Let's look at a more direct tax, the new state revenue stamps that drug dealers are required to purchase. Should they be consulted about how the money is spent? Should we set up a Division of Drug Resources? Should the state underwrite the opium poppy crop?

What a telling name, Division of Wildlife Resources. That shows its true colors. It is hunter-dominated and founded on the idea that wildlife is a resource to be used.

The DWR announces a public hearing at which its board is supposed to reach an impartial decision. In the same breath it spends tax dollars to distribute propaganda justifying the hunt, and invents phony "philosophical" grounds.

Nobody bothers to philosophize that animals have a right to live. If we're into philosophy, let's hear about animals being separate nations. Let's hear about respect for the natural creation.

It's time the DWR became a state division for wildlife, not a division to abuse wildlife.

So don't you forget the sandhill hearing: 10 a.m. Thursday in the Juab County Courthouse, 146 N. Main, Nephi.

A leasing controversy - The Utah Wilderness Association is calling for the U.S. Forest Service to write an environmental impact statement about proposed new oil and gas leasing in the Blacks Fork drainage of the Uinta Mountains.

The Bureau of Land Management asked the Forest Service to issue oil and gas leases on 9,000 acres "abutting the High Uintas Wilderness," according to the UWA. "If the current proposals to drill and lease go forward, the results will be devastating to recreation and wildlife in the area," said Dick Carter, the group's coordinator.

Wayne McCormack, the UWA's lawyer, wrote to Evanston District Ranger Clyde Thompson that the analysis must include the entire drainage, from the boundary of the wilderness north to the border of Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Wilson supports hunting, fishing and wildlife - Gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson told the Utah Roundtable of Sportsmen and Conservationists last week that wildlife is a crucial asset to Utah, worth at least $500 million to $700 million annually to the economy alone.

He pointed out that 700,000 Utahns spend nearly 8.4 million days each year hunting and fishing. But he also expressed the idea that nature has value to man beyond consuming it.

"I can't put a dollar value on the time I have spent on Lone Peak watching the Rocky Mountain goats that are thriving there, or the excitement of seeing deer and occasionally elk while hiking or even driving through Utah's forests.

"What I can do is promise that as governor the high level of importance I will place on our wildlife resources will be easily apparent."

He attacked Gov. Norm Bangerter, saying he opposed the fish and wildlife fund that Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, worked to set up in connection with the Central Utah Project reauthorization. Wilson supports legislation to recognize in-stream flows as a beneficial use of water.

One of the most promising statements in his prepared speech was, "I intend to actively support the non-game programs the division of Wildlife ResourcesT is struggling to develop. I am excited by the prospect of reintroducing river otters to their native Utah habitats," and by the success of the peregrine falcon program.

Cleanup ordered - The Environmental Protection Agency is ordering seven companies to clean up the Xtron Corp. site in Blanding because of health hazards from soil contamination. Arsenic, cadmium, arsenate salts and other hazardous material from metals processing and refining remain in waste piles and drums. Also present are laboratory chemicals.

The order was issued because negotiations with companies failed, according to Jim Knoy, EPA's on-scene coordinator. "We have reports that children have played in and around very contaminated areas," he said.

"Access to the site was, until recently, unrestricted and some vandalism has taken place."

The EPA order was issued to Aero Industries, FMC Corp., Hewlett Packard, Monsanto, National Semiconductor, Texas Instruments and Xtron Corp.