Utah Reps. Jim Hansen and Wayne Owens took pot shots at each other Wednesday over Bureau of Land Management wilderness area proposals that the two members plan to introduce this week.
Owens planned to introduce his 5 million-acre wilderness bill on Thursday while Hansen planned to drop in his 1.4-million-acre version immediately afterward.Rep. Bruce Vento, D-Minn., chairman of the House Parks Subcommittee, has promised to put both bills before his panel.
Hansen said Wednesday that Owens' proposed 5 million acres is "an extreme off-the-wall plan that far exceeds any realistic amount of land" that should be made off-limits to multiple use. He said the bureau has found only 3.2 million acres that qualify as wilderness under any criteria. "BLM land involves places where people live and work," Hansen added.
He predicted the Bush administration would back his wilderness bill and that the president would veto a 5-million-acre bill if Congress passed it.
Owens said there are 5 million acres that deserve wilderness protection. He added that he might happily accept 4 million acres after looking over the land involved and negotiating with his fellow Utah members of Congress.
A 5-million-acre set-aside won't happen, Hansen predicted. If it did, the Sagebrush Rebellion would be back in Utah and "I'd happily lead it."