Calling proposed Utah Air Conservation Committee regulations "bureaucracy at its vilest," the Utah County Council of Governments has passed a unanimous resolution opposing the guidelines.

During their monthly meeting Thursday, council members decided to send letters of protest to the state and the conservation committee. In addition, a local oversight committee will be organized to investigate the origin of the proposed regulations.The guidelines would prohibit open burning of clippings, bushes, plants and tree prunings in Salt Lake, Duchesne, Weber and Utah counties. Burning in other counties would not be prohibited.

The proposal, however, would not prohibit burning related to "agricultural/horticultural operations" or impose burning periods on such operations.

The committee proposes to adopt the state's definition of "land in agricultural use." Under the definition, "an operator must devote greater than five acres to agricultural use . . . and earn a gross income of $1,000 per year from the operation." However, "the revenue and taxation statute does not require that both these conditions be satisfied together."

James Prather, Elk Ridge mayor pro tem, said the conservation committee is doing little more than creating work for itself to protect jobs.

"I think we're staring eyeball to eyeball with bureaucracy at its vilest," Prather said.

According to the conservation committee, he said, the proposed regulations were drafted because of complaints by city officials and citizens. But none of the members of Council of Governments, which comprises all Utah County mayors, said they have ever complained or received any citizen complaints about open burning.

On the contrary, they said, people like the regulations as they are. Under current regulations, open burning is allowed for a short period each spring.

During a public hearing last month with the conservation committee, local fire chiefs and all but one county resident also opposed the proposed regulations.

As currently regulated, Prather said, burning only lasts a short time in the spring. And in most cases, people burn for only a few hours or minutes. Usually, the environmental impact is small.

Mayors expressed concern about the increased pressure the proposed regulations would have on county landfills. They agreed that the regulations would not only be difficult to enforce, but would be difficult to comply with because many people with small orchards don't have the facilities, time or money to haul refuse to a landfill.

Prather said current regulations are safe and adequate because burning is controlled through issuance of permits, and county residents generally have been cooperative.

He warned county mayors that Air Conservation Committee members have said their next target will be residential fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.

"You can expect that at some time in the future," Prather said.