Saying he hopes to lead "historic changes back to moderation" in wilderness, endangered species and environmental protection, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, said he will likely chair a subcommittee overseeing public lands and national parks.

That action, however, was not expected to be final until after organizational meetings Friday. And Hansen said a small chance existed that he might chair a national security subcommittee instead. GOP members are allowed no more than one chairmanship.Hansen said he had all but decided to take the public lands panel, in part, because a more senior member of the National Security Committee (formerly Armed Services) decided to chair its Research and Development Subcommittee - which Hansen had wanted.

"(Rep.) Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) decided to take it," Hansen said. "It is in good hands. We agree on most things. I talked to him, and most of the things I want to do there he agreed to help get done."

But he said, "I'm not so sure we'd be in as good of shape on the Natural Resources Committee" - where Hansen is the second-ranking Republican, and therefore has first pick of any subcommittee chairmanship there that he wants.

"I think we have a window of opportunity to make some changes in laws and bring back some moderation in areas that have been ruled by extremism," Hansen told the Deseret News - so he wants the subcommittee that oversees public lands.

"I see the possibility for some big changes in wilderness and endangered species" - plus other laws overseeing environmental protection, he said.

He has also captured headlines recently by pushing such things as a commission to review all 368 units of the national park system to decide which of them should be closed to save money to better maintain the other units.

Hansen has long been an opponent of many environmental laws that he said lock up too much of the West to protect relatively obscure species or places to the detriment of local economies.

He would also be replacing as chairman Rep. Bruce Vento, D-Minn., considered one of the biggest friends of environmentalist groups in Congress - while Hansen is considered one of their biggest foes.

Hansen's decision has a variety of groups wary - including the National Parks and Conservation Association, which opposes his park closure commission advocacy.

Also, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance foresees battles with him in his new powerful post over wilderness in Utah on Bureau of Land Management areas.

The alliance continues to push for 5.7 million acres of wilderness there - a tenth of all land in Utah - while Hansen has supported creating only around 2 million acres instead.