Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, in a letter signed by Utah's other three Republican members of Congress, urged Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan to ignore a Democratic effort to expand BLM wilderness study areas in Utah to 5.1 million acres.
Sen. Orrin Hatch and Reps. Jim Hansen and Howard Nielson signed the letter.Garn said none of the five Democratic members who signed the letter asking Lujan to expand the wilderness study area reside in Utah, and three of them live in the East and know little of Western public-land issues.
"Needless to say we are offended by the intrusion into the internal affairs of the people of the state of Utah," Garn wrote. "They are the ones who would be the most directly affected by any future wilderness designations within the borders of our state.
"While we recognize these are public lands, we believe the people of rural Utah, those most directly affected by the creation of the wilderness study areas, must have their values and way of life protected. Those outside preservationists should not be allowed to manipulate sympathetic congressmen like pawns in a chess game to do their dirty work for them. This is exactly what these extremists are doing by attempting to intimidate you to dramatically increase the amount of BLM lands in Utah to be managed as wilderness."
"We urge you to reject outright this intrusive attempt to dictate land-management policies in Utah. To date, the BLM for the most part has acted professionally and responsibly in its efforts to determine which lands deserve wilderness study classification.
"The 3.2 million acres now being considered for possible wilderness designation are, if anything, excessive. To even fathom adding another 1.9 million acres of BLM land into a wilderness study category would be devastating to the economic well-being of the people of rural Utah.
"This we will not accept.
"Our rural constituents by the thousands have let us know that under the guise of wanting to protect Utah's environment, our Salt Lake congressman is cruelly out of touch with them on this issue. They, not he, will suffer if these proposals are allowed to become a reality.
"Mr. Secretary, as a former member of Congress from a public-land state, you know only too well how dependent Westerners are on BLM land for their livelihood.
"We trust you will pay us the same respect in Utah that you always did for your constituents in New Mexico. In our view, the professional land managers of the BLM should at least be allowed to finish their administrative work and make a final recommendation to the Congress before Congress jumps into the process. The Congress should not be allowed to intimidate the BLM into increasing the amount of land within our state to be managed as de facto wilderness.
"Let us say each of us played a role in drafting the 1984 Wilderness Act. We hope you will assist us as the BLM wilderness process continues," the letter said.