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Rep. Wayne Owens, R-Utah, will accompany more than a dozen Utah legislators on a hike through Negro Bill Canyon near Moab Friday to try to persuade them to support wilderness preservation efforts.

The Democratic senator promised several weeks ago while at a meeting in Moab that he would return to look more closely at areas included in his 5.1 million-acre wilderness preservation bill.At the annual meeting of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance over the weekend, Owens said a contingent of state legislators would join him on a tour of the Negro Bill Canyon Wilderness Study Area.

"This is the Legislature that voted no wilderness, at all, ever, unanimously," Owens told more than 100 environmentalists during the one-day conference at the Moab Civic Center.

"I think I can help change their minds. I think wilderness is moving for us."

The group will be led by Scott Groene, an attorney for the wilderness alliance.

Susan Tixier, alliance spokeswoman, said 10 out of 17 legislators who showed interest had signed up for the hike and other activities as of last weekend.

Plans are for the group to leave by bus from Salt Lake City early Friday, drive through the Buckhorn Wash area of the San Rafael Swell and arrive at Negro Bill Canyon in time for a box lunch.

Hikers are rewarded at the end of the box canyon with the sight of a huge natural arch at the end of a well-used path along a natural creek that empties into the Colorado River. The area is administered by the Bureau of Land Management, which in recent years has heavily promoted the canyon for hiking and horseback tours.

After the hike, the group will return to Moab for a reception and a viewing of "The Canyon's Edge," an award-winning multimedia show.

A campfire cookout is planned for Friday evening in the Behind-the-Rocks Wilderness Study Area west of Moab. Saturday morning pilots will fly the group in two shifts over various wilderness study areas.