The Legislature's interim committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment voted - semiofficially - to support a huge boost in state appropriations for an experiment in grazing and wildlife management.

The Cedar Mountain Range Experiment Project, about 25 miles southeast of Cedar City, is run by Utah State University and Southern Utah University. It was launched in 1980, and state and federal agency officials met last spring to consider its future. At the time, many believed that it had met its goals and would be shut down.But according to speakers at the interim committee meeting Wednesday, officials discovered that not only did the project answer many questions, such as proving that sheep and cattle can co-exist, but that many other questions could be answered by expanding its scope.

A big change is that over the past 20 years the increased agricultural production has lured elk into the area. Another is that conifers are replacing aspen stands. How wildlife and livestock compete also could use further examination.

Additional studies may show how ranchers and wildlife managers could cope with changes, improve production and help wild animals, backers say.

Project directors said $100,000 is needed in a one-time appropriation to improve fences and roads and to upgrade equipment. In addition, new continuing funding of $250,000 a year is needed to pay for the studies. That amount would be a supplement to the $100,000 yearly that the experiment already gets.

Of the funds sought, $100,000 would be used as seed money to help "leverage" in new research programs from other agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.

Rep. Mary Carlson, D-Salt Lake City, noted that the present $100,000-yearly funding comes through the state, so the $250,000 yearly appropriation now sought would be on top of that. Backers corrected that somewhat, saying the present $100,000 comes from both federal and state sources.

Rep. Evan Olsen, R-Young Ward, said he is concerned about "what happens with all of this research, once it's been published." He wants to make sure that it reaches the consumers, he said.

In the end, the interim committee voted to support the new appropriation. But it was not an official position, because too few members were present for a quorum.