Gov. Norm Bangerter told board members of the Utah Wilderness Association that he sees room for compromise on the controversial issue of how much wilderness area should be set aside in Utah.
And the governor was apparently successful in conveying that message during a half-hour meeting Wednesday with eight members of the association's board of directors.Dick Carter, coordinator of the association, said after the meeting that the governor's positions seemed "far more middle-of-the-road than when he speaks publicly."
The association had proposed that 3.8 million acres of the Bureau of Land Management property be set aside but has recently endorsed a proposal by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, to designate 5 million acres.
Bangerter, on the other hand, has expressed interest in a BLM report that suggested that the amount of land which should receive the designation falls somewhere between 1 million and 2 million acres.
The governor told members of the association board that although he signed a resolution passed by the Legislature calling for no more wilderness areas, he recognized that some of the land being studied would likely be permanently set aside.
Bangerter said that neither camp is likely to be totally satisfied with the final outcome.
The governor had earlier this year complained about restrictions placed on land in a wilderness study area in the Cannonville area of economically depressed Garfield County.
A production crew shooting a television commercial estimated to be worth $250,000 to the local economy left the state because of a BLM policy requiring a 30-day comment period before any activity could be approved in a wilderness study area.
The governor said then in a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel that the experience "reaffirms my fears that wilderness study areas are just a ploy for more wilderness areas without full congressional approval."
On Wednesday, his tone was much less confrontational. "I don't think you'll find me a hard person to do business with," he told the association board members.
Carter echoed that sentiment during the meeting when he said that the group is more interested in getting specific spots in the state preserved as wilderness areas than in the overall number of acres set aside.
He said that compromising on development of the surrounding areas can ensure the truly beautiful spots are saved, which will benefit the state's tourist industry as well.
Meetings are also planned with Democratic candidate for governor Ted Wilson and possibly Independent candidate for governor Merrill Cook, Carter said, adding that the association does not endorse candidates.