After Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, told them about what he expects to be bad impacts of wilderness, members of the state's Wilderness Task Force voted Monday to support no more than 1.4 million acres of Bureau of Land Management land for that protection.
The figure is the same size as in a Utah wilderness bill that Hansen told the group he intends to file in Congress. Although it is 1.4 million acres higher than the zero-wilderness figure in a resolution the Legislature once passed, it is far lower than other proposals, notably the 5.1 million-acre bill Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, introduced.Hansen paid some tribute to wilderness, saying he would defend the designation of places like the High Uintas. But for the most part, his talk to the task force was negative about wilderness.
At least three members of the task force took exception to the resolution.
"There's a number of items here that I disagree with, and my intent is to file a minority report," Rep. Bob Anderton, D-Salt Lake, said of the resolution. (Rep. Daniel H. Tuttle, D-West Valley City, later told the Deseret News he will probably join in the minority report.)
When a member of the task force asked Anderton to spell out his objections and offer amendments to the resolution, Anderton said he disagrees with the acreage figure and other items. But he said it would be hopeless to ask the task force to vote on improvements he'd like to make.
"Quite frankly, I know my opinion's going to be rolled in the committee," he said.
Hansen was the first speaker at the meeting, starting by saying that wilderness means no roads, and the 1964 Wilderness Act defines a road as two tracks.
When wilderness is designated, hunters and fishermen will be "losing the most sacred thing they have, and that's access," he said.
Once a BLM wilderness bill is passed, Hansen warned, "You folks are going to have a hue and a cry that you won't believe. Just wait until you have the first deer season come around."
However, Hansen added that southern Utahns are not united against wilderness. "You'll find that a vast majority of them are not opposed to a minimal amount that will not affect their lifestyles."
He said his figure of 1.4 million acres comes from what the BLM calls its "paramount wilderness" option, in its wilderness studies.
On Monday the BLM state office released its final recommendation, 1,975,000 acres of wilderness protection.
That recommendation came from the agency people who know the resources of the land, he said, "not those people who have a burning in their bosoms that they like the land, but the experts . . .
"I personally feel that now the BLM has come up with this, now is the time to act on it."
Asked about the possibility of designating more than 1.4 million acres, Hansen said he believes in compromise and negotiation.
"You never throw out your top figure . . . I don't want to start at 1.9 because I've established a floor."
He conceded that the chances of passing a wilderness act this session "aren't the best" - no more than a 40 or 45 percent chance.
George Nickas of the Utah Wilderness Association complained about a section of the resolution that would attempt to discourage court challenges to the limited wilderness bill the task force supports.
Provisions of resolution
On Monday, the same day that the Bureau of Land Management released its final environmental impact statement on wilderness, capping $7 million worth of studies that took more than a decade to complete, the State Wilderness Task Force passed a resolution that:
- Declares the Legislature wants no more than 1.4 million acres of BLM wilderness in Utah.
- Recommends that Congress not reserve water rights for wilderness.
- Resolves that Congress require federal agencies to cooperate with the state in exchanging state land surrounded by or adjacent to BLM wilderness areas.
- Asks Congress to prohibit creation of buffer zones around wilderness and to "take action to discourage administrative and judicial proceedings that are frivolous but that create de facto buffer zones."
- Requests that areas with "high potential for economic development" be left out of any wilderness bill.
The resolution's sponsors intend to bring it before the Legislature during the 1991 session.