State transportation officials aren't picky about who picks up litter along Utah roads.

In some states, problems have occurred when controversial groups have sought to clean up roadsides by adopting a highway.Ohio officials, for example, denied a Ku Klux Klan request for adoption in 1995 citing potential safety hazards. The Virginia Friends of Hemp got their highway only after threatening a lawsuit in 1993.

But in Utah, almost anyone can clean up highway clutter and trash.

"I don't care a whit, if they're out there picking the garbage up," said John Gunderson, who administers the Utah Department of Transportation's Adopt a Highway program for Region 1, covering northern Utah.

UDOT began the Adopt-a-Highway program about 10 years ago, offering state highways to citizen groups for cleanup two or three times a year. Individuals must be over 11 years of age to participate.

Groups interested in committing themselves for two years may contract with UDOT to adopt a two-mile stretch or longer. At present, there are 886 groups cleaning 1,945 miles of highway in the state.

In return, UDOT pays around $450 for two signs for each group to mark the area adopted.

A variety of signs dot Region 1, from the Latter-day Druids to the Boy Scouts, the 729th Tactical Control Squadron of Hill Air Force Base to the Beehive Beemer BMW Motorcycle Club of Utah.

Groups that fail to keep their stretch of highway clean can be removed from UDOT's list of volunteers and have their sign taken down. But, because it is a volunteer effort, Gunderson said officials may wait for a few years before taking such steps.

"We always have groups that are derelict. I'm really just concerned about the condition of the roads," Gunderson said.

Region 1 has 161 groups volunteering on 357 highway miles.

Kristi Urry of Region 2 - the greater Salt Lake City area, which has 208 groups - said precautions are taken throughout the state to ensure safety. Before a group cleans, it must arrange for orange vests, garbage bags and road work signs. The groups are not allowed to close off lanes or clean at night.

They also cannot clean medians between interstate lanes. Supervised juvenile offenders or prisoners usually clean the middle areas.

Among volunteers who have adopted a highway is the Ogden Area Eclectic Pagans, whose members clean a stretch of Highway 89 near Willard about three or four times a year.

"Pagans aren't bad people. Hey, we're out there cleaning up your garbage," said Rick Poen, the group's Adopt-a-Highway organizer.

Brian Chapman of the YFCS Jefferson House, the first group to sign up in Region 1, said he hopes the program will teach his troubled youth to help others.