To the editor:
In a Nov. 20 Forum letter, a spokesman for the Sierra Club says Utah has only 780,000 acres of land managed as wilderness.According to government reports, there are currently in Utah two BLM designated wilderness areas totaling 22,551 acres, 93 BLM wilderness study areas with 3,311,985 acres (which by law must be managed as if they were fully designated wilderness) and 13 Forest Service wilderness areas with 779,638 acres.
In addition, 1,365,384 acres of National Park Service lands are essentially managed with wilderness criteria. In the Book Cliffs area, 56,800 acres of state-owned land are under de-facto wilderness closure and 23,030 additional BLM acres are in wilderness study status by adjacent state BLM offices.
That totals 5,550,388 Utah acres being directly managed under wilderness criteria. Still more, 413,000 acres on the Uinta/Ouray Indian Reservation, are basically managed as wilderness.
So almost 6 million acres of Utah are managed under wilderness criteria. This represents 17.7 percent of Utah's public domain lands or 11.3 percent of the entire state. How much is enough? Or how much is too much?
The Sierra Club also claims grazing is allowed in wilderness areas. True, but under such severe restrictions that it usually becomes uneconomic.
"Reasonable predator control" cited by the writer actually means the Forest Service says a sheepman must give up four out of every 100 sheep to coyotes before traditional predator control methods are allowed.
Wilderness advocates repeatedly insist that wilderness welcomes multiple use. Fourteen major business and industry groups providing thousands of jobs and water resources in Utah simply disagree.
These groups include the Utah Mining Assn., Utah Assn. of Counties, Utah Farm Bureau, Utah Petroleum Assn., Utah Assn. of Conservation Districts, Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Coastal States Energy Co., Utah-Idaho Farmers Union, Utah Wool Growers, Utah Manufacturers Assn., Utah Taxpayers Assn., Utah Forest Industry Council, Utah Cattlemens Assn., and Utah Water Users Assn. And many other recreation groups and others have similarly expressed concern that too much Utah land is being locked up in wilderness.
Another myth that must be exploded is that wilderness designation increases tourism. It does not. Even the chief of the U.S. Forest Service states in a June 15, 1988 letter to Congress that, "Wilderness visitor use seems to be declining nationally, and the trends in Idaho are consistent with that."
Further designation of wilderness in Utah will only depress the local and state economy, thereby eliminating many jobs for Utahns. It is a price that the above groups believe most Utahns are unwilling to pay when there are alternatives that will allow us to protect our scenic beauty without locking out most Utahns.
C. Booth Wallentine, chairman
Utah Public Lands Multiple Use Coalition