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BLM DIRECTOR WANTS TO BOOST FEES, EMPHASIZE RECREATION, WILDERNESS

SHARE BLM DIRECTOR WANTS TO BOOST FEES, EMPHASIZE RECREATION, WILDERNESS

Higher grazing fees. Royalties on the mining of gold and silver. More wilderness and fewer cattle.

They are but a few of the changes that users of public lands should expect in the months ahead. "The West is changing, like it or not," said newly appointed Bureau of Land Management director Jim Baca."You will see a grazing fee hike and you will see reforms to the 1872 Mining Law. And you will see new and innovative ideas on land management . . . a concentrated effort to adopt ecosystem management."

And, "we must redefine the concept of multiple use." That, he said, means a greater focus on recreation and wilderness and less emphasis on the traditional industrial uses of public lands, especially livestock grazing, mining and timber.

Baca was in Salt Lake City Wednesday to meet with conservationists and movie industry officials to resolve differences over filming on public land. But during a press conference at the Red Lion Hotel, he said Westerners have no choice but to get used to change.

"Changes are frightening to people in the West," he said, noting those changes could have devastating economic impacts on rural communities. The BLM must help "remold" the economies of those communities, he added. "We can help by opening more rec-reation areas," he said.

Among other topics, Baca:

- Admitted the BLM has done a poor job of adhering to its own rules and regulations and promised the BLM will follow the letter of the law in the future.

- Promised a new BLM management attitude focused on sound scientific and management principles, particularly as 11 of the 12 state directors, all of whom are eligible for retirement, are replaced in the months ahead.

- Promised not to cut the bureau's budget for recreation, wilderness and law enforcement. But he added that other areas - oil and gas drilling, mining and livestock grazing - could see big cuts in budget and staff.

- Labeled the Department of Agriculture's division of Animal Damage Control "the slaughter of wildlife in favor of ranchers." He added that he wants to see the ADC change the way it does business, particularly on BLM lands.

- Labeled as "very upsetting" a BLM administrative law judge's ruling that environmental groups that purchase grazing permits must use them or give them up to ranchers who will. "That will be addressed in new regulations."

- Promised an aggressive grazing-reform campaign that changes the way ranchers run cattle on public lands. That could include measures to keep cattle out of riparian areas.

- Said the BLM's 1.9 million-acre wilderness recommendation for Utah was not enough.

Utah conservationists were encouraged by Baca's remarks. "It's pretty clear we will see reform," said Ken Rait of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

"It is a radical shift, a much needed shift in the BLM's attitude. There is now a recognition that the playing field has been tilted against conservation for a long, long time, and now it's time to tilt it back."

Utah has about 22 million acres of BLM land, more than all but two other states.