A bill to find ways to prevent the famous Bonneville Salt Flats from becoming the "Bonneville Mud Flats" was introduced Wednesday by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah.

The bill - co-sponsored by Reps. Wayne Owens and Bill Orton, D-Utah - would direct the secretary of Interior to conduct a study costing up to $1.5 million in 1992 and 1993 to determine the causes and extent of salt loss at Bonneville."This natural phenomenon is now disappearing, threatening its beauty and usage. Why are they shrinking and how can it be stopped? My legislation would assist in answering these questions," Hansen said as he introduced the bill.

"The salt flats are worth saving. They are a unique and fascinating part of the Utah experience. We cannot afford to wait until they become the Utah `Mud Flats' to act to save them."

Hansen said measurements of the salt flats near Wendover show that since they were first mapped in 1926, they have shrunken about 1 percent a year from 96,000 acres to 25,000 acres now.

Since 1960, the salt crust has thinned from 7 feet to 5 feet at its thickest point and to mere inches in some locations.

"The value of the salt flats is impossible to measure. This desolate white plain is one of the world's most interesting geologic formations. The flats have played host to the world land speed record, countless television and movie cameras, as well as millions of dollars annually to Utah's economy," Hansen said.