Bureau of Land Management national director Cy Jamison will dedicate three new National Back Country byways April 15 in Rockville, Washington County. They are the Smithsonian Butte, Bull Creek Pass and Nine-mile Canyon byways. "You're invited to get off the beaten path and get into Utah like never before," says a BLM announcement of the dedication.

Rats. I don't want more people getting out and "into Utah like never before" if they're the kind who have been getting off the convenient byways lately in exponentially increasing numbers - tearing up the sagebrush with off-road vehicles, scattering beer cans, trashing cryptogamic soil with dirt bike tracks. Why don't they stay home instead and play video games? Watch "Roseanne"? Go to monster truck shows in the Salt Palace and see Bigfoot squash wimpy Japanese cars?* * *

The swamp is the environmental movement's latest battleground, along with streamsides and riverbanks.

Suddenly, across the country, efforts by federal regulators to save our wetlands are drawing highly publicized fire. Farmers are tried in California for filling fields or draining what were once considered miasmic sumps.

Hardly a meeting of the state's Resource Development Coordinating Committee passes without an agenda item about the Army Corps of Engineers regulating the dredging of a channel or construction of a dike. The Corps sends out notifications and holds hearings under authority of the Clean Water Act.

Gov. Norm Bangerter wants to beef up the state's role in all this. On Feb. 19, he wrote to Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah, "Although I feel our basic state interests and goals regarding wetlands are compatible with those at the national level, we increasingly find ourselves in conflict with federal agencies concerning the means and mechanisms for achieving those goals."

Bangerter noted that Utah will soon start to develop a state wetlands policy. "We would hope that such a policy would be used to help guide the inventory and management of wetlands in our state," he wrote. In order for this to happen, he added, the federal government has to recognize the state has a role in management of wetlands.

The governor called on Hansen to do "whatever you can" to help implement concepts in a wetlands resolution adopted by the Western Governors Association.

But exactly what is a wetland? Several agencies have differing definitions of riparian zones - the banks of a stream, river or lake - and of wetlands.

Trying to clear the muddied waters, Utah State University will host a symposium on wetlands, April 18 and 19, covering everything from natural disturbance of the areas to impacts of recreation; and from forestry to definitions.

Definitions are a focus of the meeting, which is to be held in the Eccles Conference Center at USU, Logan, as part of the university's Natural Resources Week. The keynote address is by Charles Hawkins, director of the USU Watershed Science Unit: "What is a riparian area and how does one function?"

Altogether, 11 professionals in water use and watershed management will speak during the symposium.

"There is a lot of interest and a lot of it has come from the fact that as science continues to move on, we find out more about the environment," said USU's Allen Rasmussen, the symposium coordinator. Riparian zones are a minor component of the landscape, especially in our state, "but they tend to be a very important indicator of what's going on," he told this column.

"There's a real reason that these (riparian zones) are important, and we need to get that across."

Those interested in attending should contact the USU College of Natural Resources at 750-2445.

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The Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve will be dedicated near Moab on June 1. Better known as the Moab Slough, the 690-acre area was purchased by the Nature Conservancy. The group describes it as "southeastern Utah's richest and most biologically diverse wildlife habitat."

Tim Provan, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says, "The sloughs are the only wetlands along the Colorado River between the Colorado-Utah state line and Lake Powell." It is a haven for at least 150 bird species, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons. River otters have been spotted there.

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Gunsight Peak, in Caribou National Forest within Box Elder and Cache counties, would be designated a new Research Natural Area under a proposal by the U.S. Forest Service. It is to be among 20 such areas established on forests in the next few weeks.

"Research Natural Areas are part of a national network of ecological areas on National Forest System lands designated in perpetuity for research, education and-or maintenance of biological diversity," says the April 1 notice in the Federal Register. The latest set of designations would bring the country's total to 231.

The forest extends from Idaho and straddles the Box Elder-Cache county line in extreme northern Utah. Gunsight Peak Research Natural Area, about five miles northwest of Clarkston, Cache County, would have 550 acres. If no written appeal arrives at the Forest Service headquarters in Washington by May 16, the designations apparently will become final.