A resolution intended to influence Congress and the Bureau of Land Management against further wilderness designations became a blazing wrangle Thursday, with a southern Utah representative calling for Utahns to control federal land in the state.
On a 58-11 vote, the House approved HJR10, which urges Congress not to enact further wilderness designations in Utah "without the unanimous support of Utah's congressional delegation" and urges the BLM not to restrict access to its Utah lands by saying "wilderness characteristics" exist there.
Legislators were worried that further wilderness designations would restrict the use of land for other uses, especially energy development and agriculture. And they scoffed at the promise of riches from tourism and outdoor recreation.
"I remember the joke many years ago of how much money this (wilderness designation) was going to bring to our counties and our rural area, one of the poorest areas in the state of Utah," Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said. "And the joke was the backpackers come in with a pair of dirty shorts and 20 bucks, they stay there a week and they don't change either one of them. I think that's true."