These days, if you want to start a ruckus in Utah, just make some suggestion - any suggestion - about how Utah's public lands should be managed.

"It is impossible in Utah for three people to talk about wilderness without two of them hitting each other," observed Jim Ruch, executive vice president of the Grand Canyon Trust.So what happens when you put 200 or so industry leaders, land managers, conservationists and politicians in the same room?

About the same thing. Only you call it the "Governor's Forum on Natural Resources: Defining Multiple Use."

In an effort to get all sides talking about the issues of public land use, the state Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and Utah's three major universities, sponsored the invitation-only get-together, with multiple use of public lands dominating the discussion.

And while there were at least as many different viewpoints as there were people in attendance, the issue that caught virtually everyone's attention was that the different sides were willing to talk about the issues in a common forum.

"Utah has so many different issues at stake, some so volatile they pit households against each other," said David C. O'Neal, assistant secretary for the Interior. "This is a great beginning. When you do things in a cooperative manner, then differences can be resolved a lot easier."

The conference is the first of its kind anywhere in the nation to bring together top-level leaders of state and federal government, industry and the environment to discuss the multiple use of public lands.

Gov. Norm Bangerter argued that multiple use of public lands can be maintained and all interests, including environmental ones, can be balanced within a multiple-use context.

"I believe renewable resources should be managed to achieve perpetual output at the highest level possible without impairing the capacity to produce," Bangerter said.

"And it is not only appropriate, but right to extract energy and mineral resources from the land to meet the nation's needs, and to work the land in a responsible manner."

In turn, recreation should be an equal partner in the multiple-use planning process, and preservation of the state's outstanding scenery and archaeology "deserve protection both as an assist to the economy, and as a part of our heritage," he said.

But maintaining public lands as multiple-use lands will require a more active role by land managers, as well as land users, O'Neal said.

"Certain interests want vast areas of public lands to be locked up and saved from human destruction," said O'Neal, who has under his jurisdiction the BLM, the Office of Surface Mining and the Minerals Management Service.

"They want folks to believe that utilizing our public land resources inevitably leads to destruction of our environment. They don't want folks to realize that in our treasure chest of public lands we have room for many important uses, including recreation, development, habitat preservation, grazing, mining and other uses that serve a reasonable public need."

Not that everyone agreed with O'Neal. But at least they were all in the same room together talking about it.