The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance can't have it both ways. For years, the group has stayed clear of advisory boards and groups that seek an acceptable compromise on environmental issues. Now it is complaining because the governor didn't appoint it a seat on the Utah Bureau of Land Management Advisory Council.

Gov. Mike Leavitt has "gagged the Greens again," said Scott Groene, SUWA's issues director.Hold on a minute. The Utah Bureau of Land Management Council has a predetermined makeup. It includes representatives from grazing interests, off-road vehicle enthusiasts, energy and mining industries, native American tribes, public officials and, yes, environmentalists. The fact SUWA was not appointed to fill one of the two environmentalist slots hardly means anyone is gagging the Greens. In fact, those two slots weren't up for reappointment. SUWA was hoping for the "dispersed recreation" slot, which was filled by a leader of the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife in Utah.

Nor is this a good way for SUWA to endear itself to the mainstream, if in fact it now wants to be a play-er. Indeed, the group's intentions are difficult to gauge. In earlier public statements, SUWA officials have spoken against advisory committees, branding them as attempts to "co-opt us into a process where it is assumed we would lay down our legal and other weapons to talk `in good faith.' " Such groups are "often run by consensus" and are "biased toward exploitation," the alliance said in a 1994 newsletter.

Why would the BLM advisory committee, made up of such a diversity of interests, be any different?

SUWA has a legitimate claim to expertise involving BLM land in Southern Utah. It has conducted exhaustive inventories and cataloged areas with more than 40,000 photos. But it has earned the label of extremist because it has been unwilling to negotiate, compromise or even acknowledge the existence of an acceptable consensus position when it comes to designating wilderness areas.

Perhaps now SUWA has changed its mind and would like an appointment to the committee when the next environmental slot opens in 2000. If so, it could find better ways of positioning itself than by insulting the governor.