The Bureau of Land Management's wilderness studies for Utah have failed to adequately address many important issues, the Environmental Protection Agency says.
The BLM denies the charges. But Mark MacAllister of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said inadequacies that the EPA has uncovered "led the BLM to wrongly exclude significant acreage from wilderness consideration in the state."After a decade of studies that cost $7 million, the BLM released a recommendation in December 1990 that 1,975,000 acres of its land in Utah be protected as wilderness. The recommendation was made in a final environmental impact statement, which the EPA has now critiqued.
BLM officials and the U.S. Bureau of Mines are feeding information to the Interior Department in wilderness study reports concerning mineral values on potential wilderness land. They are working against an October deadline by which the department is to report its recommendations to the president.
Later, the president will forward his ideas to Congress, which has final say on setting aside federal wilderness land.
However, the EPA now says areas should be added to the BLM's original study units that were excluded years ago.
On March 7, 1991, Robert R. DeSpain, chief of the Environmental Assessment Branch in the EPA's Denver regional office, wrote a scathing review of the environmental impact statement. The final version fails to respond to many issues the EPA raised after the draft statement was released, he told the BLM's Utah office.