Southwest Utah residents told two Utah congressmen recently that they oppose designating more wilderness in Utah.
The meeting was sponsored by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah and Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah.Three Utah wilderness proposals are currently on the table. The Bureau of Land Management is studying 3.2 million acres. The agency is recommending that 1.9 million acres of that land actually be designated wilderness.
Hansen's so-called paramount plan calls for 1.4 million acres of land to be designated wilderness. Hansen said that plan has the support of the Utah Legislature. An opposing plan submitted by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, calls for 5.4 million acres of Utah land to be designated wilderness.
Orton told the audience his bottom line is to get the Utah congressional delegation together on the issue. "I have not put forth a wilderness bill myself and will not unless we become deadlocked in our own delegation," Orton said.
He warned those who attended that simply saying that southwest Utah residents were against wilderness designation wasn't enough. He said some action will be taken eventually.
Most of those speaking in St. George were cattlemen. Washington County Treasurer R. Lynn Gardner's family controls extensive grazing holdings on Pine Valley Mountain near St. George.
Gardner echoed several of the cattlemen in telling the congressmen that the Forest Service had promised them that wilderness designations would not affect their operations. "That simply is not the case," said Gardner. "The mandates are more restrictive every year and regardless of the statements that have been made, guaranteeing us that we would not be disturbed are simply not true."
The operators of the Goldstrike gold mine 38 miles northwest of St. George agreed with cattle ranchers. Ken Klucksdahl of Tenteco Minerals told the congressmen his company opposes any more wilderness designation in southwest Utah, and supports a multiple-use concept for wilderness lands.
More support for less wilderness designation in the state came from a somewhat unlikely source - the education community. Effie Latschkowski, legislative vice president of the Washington County PTA told the representatives that the 3.7 million acres set aside to make money for Utah schools should be protected.