The Utah Wilderness Association is taking aim at a sport hunting practice that is repugnant to the U.S. Forest Service, which nevertheless permits it.

The sport is bear baiting.Attracting wildlife for hunting through the use of bait, such as animal parts or salt, is illegal for many species, although the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources makes an exception for bear hunters. The Forest Service doesn't like the practice, but recently, the Du-chesne Ranger District, Ashley National Forest, issued a special use permit for bear baiting at Lightning Ridge.

The wilderness association filed an appeal challenging the permit. "UWA has opposed the practice because of the powerful and arrogant advantage it provides the hunter, the pressure it places on a small and largely unknown bear population . . . (and) the potential to acclimate bears to human garbage as well as impacts on other wildlife," wrote the group's coordinator, Dick Carter.

Ironically, the Forest Service has taken a public position opposed to bear baiting.

On Nov. 23, 1990, J. Stanley Tix-ier, then the regional forester in Ogden, wrote to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, "The use of salt as an attractant to draw elk and other game animals is illegal for ethical reasons. The Forest Service believes these same standards should apply to all game species, including the black bear."

In addition, bear bait could draw other wildlife, harming it. Littering, platforms, perches in trees, barrels for holding bait, animal parts used as bait - these cause visual impacts, Tixier wrote.

William S. Burbidge, director of fisheries and wildlife management for the agency's Intermountain Region, wrote on April 23 to Tim Pro-van, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources:

"Recently the forest supervisors in Utah asked me to pass on to the division and the Utah Wildlife Board their opposition to the continuation of bear baiting for sport hunting in Utah." Burbidge asked that the state's Wildlife Board reconsider the legality of bear baiting at its meeting this summer.

A Forest Service spokesman said the Duchesne Ranger District was not inconsistent with agency direc-tives when it issued a special use permit allowing bear baiting on Lightning Ridge.

"The answer is surely simple," said Paul Shields, wildlife program manger in the Ogden regional office. "It's true that we took a position opposing bear baiting . . . but we've also said in the letters to the respective state fish and wildlife agencies that we will work with them."

The letter to Provan said, "Although we do not support the continuation of this practice, we intend to work with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the Wildlife Board cooperatively to effect these changes."

Shields added, "That's our long-range goal: we will work with them. As long as bear baiting is a legal practice, part of that is issuing a special use permit."

Bear baiting "probably occurs to some degree on each of the forests in the state," he said.