Some Utahns are saying "right on" after an aide to Sen. Jake Garn ejected a persistent environmental lobbyist from his office.
Garn, R-Utah, received more than 20 phone calls Wednesday expressing support for senate aide Robert Weidner, who threw the lobbyist out of his office.At least one supporter of Garn's vote in favor of paving the Burr Trail asked Weidner to come to southern Utah and ride in a parade.
The incident involved Andrew Wiessner, of the lobbying firm Kogovesk & Associates in Denver, who visited Weidner here in an attempt to get Garn to Lift a hold on a bill carrying an amendment permitting Clive Kincaid to make a small land exchange involving his home. Kincaid, a leading opponent of Garn on the Burr Trail paving, built his house partly within a wilderness study area in Garfield County, allegedly because of a surveying error. Kincaid asked Wiessner to help him get a private bill through Congress giving him title to a half-acre of the wilderness area to prevent having to tear down the house.
Kincaid is former director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
Wiessner asked Weidner to recommend Garn go along with the bill, but refused to agree in exchange to support an extension of carbon dioxide leasing adjacent to the Box Death Hollow wilderness area in Garfield County that Garn wants.
Weidner said he asked Wiessner, "Why should we support this for you? You and Clive have fought us for years on everything involving the environment."
Wiessner, he said, replied, "Because it's the Christian thing to do."
"That's blasphemy. Get out of my office," Weidner said he told Weissner.
Wiessner left, but returned to press his issue, whereupon Wiedner blew up and threatened to "punch your lights out if you don't get out of here."
Wiessner left, but later released his version of the dispute to Utah reporters.
Wiessner was formerly counsel to the House Public Lands and National Parks subcommittee, when Rep. John Seiberling, D-Ohio, was subcommittee chairman. In addition to fighting Garn on the Burr Trail, Wiessner and Seiberling tangled with Garn over Forest Service wilderness designations and other environmental issues.
Garn defended Weidner this week, saying Wiessner had been not only an opponent in the past, but also one who changed his positions after agreements had been reached.
Garn said Thursday he would not agree to passage of the bill, which would require unanimous consent in the Senate before it could come to a vote.
The measure to which Kincaid's rider was attached was a bill by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, allowing rancher Dean Chew to acquire land near Dinosaur National Monument at the entrance to desert land in a land exchange. The Chew bill has been approved by both houses, and is noncontroversial. A Hatch spokesman said the senator was trying to find another Senate bill on which to hang the desert entry provision.
Weidner said the Kincaid exchange was before an Interior Department appeals board, and could be resolved administratively.
"If it isn't, I told Clive he can come back next session and maybe we can work out something. But he is going to have to give us a little help too."
An aide to Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, who added the Kincaid rider to the Hatch bill in the House, said county commissioners in the 1st Congressional District, no friends of Kincaid, told Hansen they did not object to the trade, and saw it as a precedent for dealing with other cases of alleged trespass on federal lands caused by inaccurate land surveys.
Other aides said they thought the way to deal with the overall problem of wrong land surveys was through a bill benefiting everyone with the problem, not on a case-by-case basis.
"That's the only way we could get the environmentalists to support it," one Utah aide said.