Congressman Bill Orton plans to introduce yet another Utah wilderness bill in the upcoming Congress. A quick look at Orton's proposal shows that it has very little to do with wilderness protection and everything to do with encouraging oil and gas drilling, coal mining and dam building.

It would actually remove current wilderness protection from 2 million acres of Utah land so that it could then be leased to mineral developers.Orton confuses the wilderness issue by proposing that 1.3 million acres of national park land be designated as wilderness even though these lands are already protected, and by proposing 1.8 million acres of BLM land be designated as "national conservation areas," which would still allow mining, grazing and motor vehicle use just as they do now.

The BLM currently protects 3.2 million acres of Utah land as wilderness. Utah wilderness groups propose 5.7 million acres for wilderness protection. Orton's bill would strip wilderness protection from all but 1.2 million acres of BLM land in Utah, less than 5 percent of Utah's land area. Those who care about preserving Utah's natural beauty will support the 5.7 million acre Utah wilderness bill (HR1500) sponsored by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., not Orton's ill-conceived "development bill."

Bill Thomas

Salt Lake City