Angry members of the Legislature's Wilderness Task Force voted Tuesday to write the state's congressional delegation voicing "opposition and displeasure" with the possibility that wilderness designation will be hung up for another five or 10 years.
They were reacting to a recent statement by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, that he intends to delay consideration of a Bureau of Land Management Wilderness bill for that long, allowing tempers to cool over the volatile issue.Utah Rep. David M. Adams, R-Monticello, one of the committee chairmen, said the economic effect of delaying wilderness decisions is intolerable for communities like Escalante and other rural towns.
The committee wants wilderness designation issues to be addressed by 1992 at the latest, preferably before, Adams said.
The recommendation also will be made to the Legislature, governor, counties and others interested "that we get on with this thing," Adams said.
"I'd rather die from a bullet than being hung for 10 years."
One task force member recommended that the letter should be delayed until the committee invites members of Congress to its next meeting, as it intends to do. But the motion to send the letter passed anyway, with only two opposing votes.
Other task force members expressed dismay with Owens' "foot-dragging." Others said keeping 3.5 million acres in wilderness study areas amounts to de facto wilderness. That means the land would be managed as wilderness even though Congress has never voted on wilderness designation for those areas.
Sen. Cary G. Peterson, R-Nephi, said, "I don't agree with Rep. Owens when he says time will help educate Utahns to his view." The delay will only further divide the state, he said.
Peterson then launched into an attack on the effect of wilderness at Mount Nebo, saying it "has become a haven for cougars . . . and an increasing population of coyotes."