Virtually everyone else has tried to bridge Utah's wilderness schism, so it's no surprise Rep. Chris Cannon is making an attempt.
Good luck.He will need more than luck, actually, to make any headway in the fractious debate that has polarized environmentalists and Utah's national political delegation, with many southern Utahns weighing in on the side of the politicos.
Perhaps a miracle - a big one, at that - would move key players off dead center or, more accurately, from the outer extremes. Beyond that, there doesn't appear to be much hope of exorcizing the intransigence of wilderness advocates who are perfectly satisfied with the status quo.
De facto wilderness is as sacrosanct as officially designated wilderness. There is no incentive for wilds advocates at loggerheads with others to budge, which is the root of the stalemate.
Recognizing that both sides are miles apart on the issue of what qualifies as wilderness, it would be nice to see environmentalists come to the table and see if there is any common ground. It also would be fascinating to see pigs fly.
The notion of finding shared geographical areas of agreement and offering them wilderness protection in piecemeal fashion was proposed by Gov. Mike Leavitt. He got absolutely nowhere. Now, in a proposal developed by Emery County, Cannon has written a bill designating a national San Rafael heritage and conservation area.
It sounds like a reasonable way to break the deadlock, but it appears dead on arrival. Scott Groene of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance called the measure "an anti-wilderness bill" that removes "protection now in place for hundreds of square miles of wilderness study areas and once again tries to redefine wilderness."
Welcome to the party, Chris. As long as Utah has 3.2 million acres of Bureau of Land Management-inventoried land protected, why talk? And with Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's proposal to re-inventory and perhaps raise that acreage to the magic 5.7 million acres sought by environmentalists, there is even less incentive to come to the table.
The end continues to be a wilderness compromise that is rapidly going nowhere.