Same wolf, different clothing. At least according to Garfield County commissioners.
Commissioners Monday turned a cold shoulder to a proposal for a monolithic national park stretching from and including Bryce Canyon National Park on the west to the Escalante River canyons on the east.That proposal apparently has the support of Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, who is also championing a 5.1 million acre wilderness proposal, much of it in the same canyon country within the new national park proposal.
"Maybe he realizes his wilderness bill isn't going to fly and he's testing other ideas," said Commissioner Louise Liston. "But you won't see any support for this idea, either. If it threatens multiple use, it threatens the economy of the county and the state, and we won't support it."
In fact, all three commissioners indicated they would vehemently oppose an expanded Bryce Canyon and/or the creation of an Escalante Canyons National Park.
Not only would it eliminate most of the winter cattle ranges in south-central Utah, but it would halt what's left of the lucrative mining industry in the mineral-rich territory.
According to figures cited by the commission, Utah received more than $27 million in mineral lease payments last year, most of it from southern Utah in areas under consideration for either the park or wilderness proposals.
"People on the Wasatch Front say they want wilderness areas for their children, but they don't realize how much revenue it produces for their children and what it means to the economy of the state," said Commissioner Tom Hatch. In Garfield County alone, mining accounts for 30 percent of the county's total tax revenues.
A park proposal, which commissioners say would be even more restrictive than the wilderness proposal, would cost state tax coffers billions of dollars. "We would be leaving our kids more than wilderness or parks. We would be taking money from our kids," Hatch said.
"It's like the tax initiatives," said Liston. "Wilderness sounds good on the surface, but the economic impact goes much, much deeper."
The park proposal was sent to Liston who presented it to the commission Monday. It was prepared by Larry R. Stucki, Owens' southern Utah representative.
"Wayne Owens has personally indicated to me that he would be very supportive of a park proposal," wrote Stucki to the commission. Garfield County officials had spoken to Owens about the idea earlier.
Stucki further indicated in the proposal that "emphasis in much, but not all, of the new park should be placed on preserving the wilderness experience."
And that, county officials say, is just wilderness with a different name _ a wilderness at least 20 percent larger than Owens' 5.1 million acres plan.
"The concept of national park now is to shut the public out," said Commissioner Sherrell Ott. "With a national park, there is no cattle ranching, no mining, no this and no that. And you can't have any developments within sight of the park."