Gov. Norm Bangerter continued his tirade against the federal government and proponents of more wilderness areas in Utah in a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel dated Friday.
The letter comes one day after Bangerter held a press conference to denounce a federal government policy that prevented a television commercial from being filmed in a wilderness study area in the Cannon-ville area of Garfield County.The commercial for a California bank, which would have featured actor Dennis Weaver leading 12 horses into a canyon, was estimated to be worth about $250,000 to a local economy suffering from double-digit unemployment.
The filming was moved to Arizona, however, because of a federal Bureau of Land Management policy requiring a 30-day comment period before any activity can be approved in an area under consideration for wilderness designation.
The governor, in his letter to Hodel, repeated his concern that environmentalists and others are "constantly pushing" for federal lands in Utah to be withdrawn from multiple use designations and placed in wilderness areas.
"Not content with their accomplishments to date in wilderness set aside, these groups are pushing `wilderness study areas' as a less obvious means of locking up more land," Bangerter wrote.
He said the experience with the commercial production "reaffirms my fears that wilderness study areas are just a ploy for more wilderness areas without full congressional approval."
The governor also asked for more cooperation from the Department of the Interior in obtaining permission for such activities in the future, citing the fact that nearly 4 million acres are either wilderness areas or under consideration for the designation.
The governor's Democratic opponent, Ted Wilson, said Friday administration officials should have known better than to send the production to a site that was protected by the federal government.
"It's his own fault that they directed Dennis Weaver to the wrong canyon," Wilson said, suggesting that more effort should have been made to relocate the production within the state.
"We don't have control over where a film company wants to shoot," said Bangerter's spokeswoman, Francine Giani. She said the production did shoot some other scenes in Bryce Canyon before running into the snag over using the wilderness study area.