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Some of Utah's youngest environmental activists showed up at the State Capitol Friday afternoon with a petition calling for a moratorium on the chaining of pinyon-juniper forests.

Fifth- and sixth-grade open-classroom students from Washington Elementary, 420 N. 200 West, showed up with a copy of a 2,500-signature petition calling for at least a temporary end to the practice. In chaining, a battleship anchor chain is dragged between two bulldozers to rip out the native vegetation, usually pinyon and juniper trees, so that vegetation better for grazing livestock can be planted.The kids said they had sent the petition to President Bush. A copy was given to Gov. Norm Bangerter, accepted on his behalf by Bud Scruggs, the governor's chief of staff.

Scruggs praised the students for their involvement. "This is an important issue," he said.

The letter to Bangerter notes that the children want help in saving 20,000 to 40,000 ancient junipers near Mills, Juab County. "We are asking you to join us in petitioning the president to call for a moratorium on this practice long enough to review it," it adds.

It claims that research indicates chaining's benefits are minimal while the ecological costs are enormous.

Vaughn O. Lovejoy, who was involved in circulating the petition and who is the father of one of the children, accompanied the group in its visit to the Capitol. Petitions were taken to the public by groups including the Wasatch Green Alliance and posted in bookstores.

"In most ways I think I'm against the chaining, and I think the moratorium should help, as we could look at what's going on," said Caroline Bodkin, daughter of Maria and Doug Bodkin, 2050 Twin View Drive. "These trees are really old, and they're part of our state and part of our heritage, and to grow them back would take 300 or 400 years."

Jordan Jensen, 12, a sixth-grader who is the son of Keith and Lucile Jensen, 1970 Redondo Ave., said, "I figure if they weigh the consequences and get all the details before just doing it senselessly, we can figure out what's the best to do with our land."

He isn't necessarily against chaining, if it's necessary, he added.

"I think it's awful, because, I mean, there's lots of animals that live in the forests that are being chained," said Emily Schaefer, daughter of Cathy and John Shaefer, of 2nd Avenue. "And that'd be as bad as if somebody's house burned down.

"I hope people will pull together and stop the chaining."