Congress should celebrate the 25th anniversary of the federal Wilderness Act this year by setting aside 5 million acres of Utah as wilderness, say spokesmen for The Wilderness Society.
George Frampton, president of the national organization, was in Salt Lake City Monday along with Darrell Knuffke, the group's Central Rockies regional director, and Mike Medberry, its Utah representative.The three were stumping for a bill Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, has said he'll introduce to designate 5 million Utah wilderness acres.
The land under consideration is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which has proposed setting aside about 1.9 million acres.
Recreationists represented by the Utah Wildlife Federation are supporting a 4.2-million-acre proposal.
The 5-million-acre proposal backed by the Utah Wilderness Coalition, Frampton said, "has been structured so that it really does not involve conflicts between minerals and grazing and other potential economic uses of the land on the one hand and conservation on the other. We've picked places where wilderness is the highest and best use of the land."
"It does not involve locking up minerals or timber," he said.
And cattle grazing is allowed on wilderness land, said Knuffke, as are hunting and fishing as long as no motorized vehicles are used.
The land involved is mostly in southern Utah and includes the Escalante country and San Rafael Swell. It also takes in some of the West Desert - the Deep Creek Mountains south of Wendover on the Utah-Nevada line and the House Range west of Delta.
Frampton said it would be especially appropriate for Congress to approve Owens' bill this year, because September will mark the 25th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the law that set up the wilderness system in the United States.
In 25 years, a little over 90 million acres has been protected as wilderness. "But that's still less than 2 percent of the country."
He said another 90 million to 100 million acres of pristine country, including the 5 million in Utah, meets the wilderness standards and should be so designated. Much of that is canyonlands, desert and high plateau in southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon.