If the adage "if both sides are mad at you then you must be doing something right" holds true, then the Bureau of Land Management must be on target with its 2 million-acre wilderness proposal.
In fact, it's hard to find anyone truly happy with the BLM's final environmental impact study on proposed wilderness designations.Not that such reactions were unexpected: The process of designating new wilderness in Utah has been fraught with acrimony since the wilderness debate began 12 years ago.
It has been a polarizing debate, with zero-wilderness advocates on one side knocking heads with environmentalists seeking up to 10 million acres of new wilderness.
It has also been a highly political debate, with different organizations and governmental bodies jockeying to protect the interests of their diverse constituents. It's not particularly surprising that the Utah Cattleman's Association, for example, doesn't see things the same way as the Sierra Club.
The result has been too many years of charges, countercharges, exaggerations and misrepresentations by all parties involved, and not enough common sense and compromise.
With the publication of the BLM's 4,133-page final recommendation, there is now some middle ground that warrants serious consideration. It also provides a framework for negotiations on the two other serious proposals - Rep. Wayne Owens' 5.2 million acre proposal and Rep. James Hansen's 1.4 million acre proposal.
As state BLM Director James Parker correctly stated, "the facts are on the table." And as Parker also admits, it's not perfect.
But it's a starting point that takes into consideration the results of 29 public hearings, more than 6,200 individual comments and a maze of federal laws that not-so-clearly specifies what can and cannot be considered for wilderness.
The BLM proposal calls for 1,975,219 acres of wilderness in 66 different units, mostly in southeastern Utah. The BLM had originally designated 3.2 million acres as "wilderness study areas."
The next step for the BLM is to send the EIS, along with separate reports from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Mines, to Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan. By the fall of 1991, the package goes to President Bush, who must submit his recommendations to Congress no later than October 1993.
While there is no deadline for Congress to act on the proposal, Parker hopes the EIS will be a catalyst for a timely decision on wilderness.
But before any wilderness proposal will be seriously considered by Congress, there must be a united front on the issue in Utah.
That means it's now time for Owens and Hansen and the rest of the Utah delegation to sit down with Gov. Norm Bangerter.
It means it's time for Utah agriculture and mining interests to stop their "you'll-put-me-out-of-business" bellyaching and get behind a compromise proposal that will benefit the entire state.
It means it's time for the Utah Legislature to stop passing "zero-wilderness" resolutions.
It means it's time for Bangerter to actively campaign for new wilderness designation, rather than talk about how 2 million acres wouldn't hurt the Utah economy.
It means it's time for Utah environmental groups to stop pouting about how it has to be 5 million acres or more or they just might stifle the process through the courts (this includes Owens, who has indicated he may delay the process in Congress by up to 10 years).
The time to start the process is now, and both sides need to come to the bargaining table with two basic realizations: 1) There will be new wilderness lands designated in Utah, and 2) there won't be nearly as many acres designated as environmentalists demand.
Owens is undoubtedly correct when he says a wilderness bill is likely years away. But the process of compromise and reconciliation needs to begin now.
Without a united front, new wilderness designations are unlikely. And while there are those on both sides who would thwart such a process, they sacrifice the best interests of the state as a whole to satisfy their own selfish interests.