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ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS FIND UTAH A FERTILE SPOT

From the Sierra Club to the Audubon Society, environmental groups nationwide are suffering dwindling numbers and decreased revenues.

Utah, however, is a peculiar place.Bucking the national trend, Utah environmental groups are reporting record numbers of new members and donations.

At the Salt Lake office of the Sierra Club, new applications are piling up after a door-to-door membership drive that more than tripled the ranks. And the hyperactive Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has grown from 7,000 members two years ago to more than 10,000 today.

The growth "is driving us crazy because our mailing parties are multi-day affairs now," said Lawson Legate, regional director for the Sierra Club's Salt Lake office.

Legate said the Sierra summer campaign, which was done in cooperation with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, boosted Utah Sierra Club membership from 2,500 last year to 8,500 this year - a whopping 340 percent increase.

"While I can't speak for the top decisionmakers, we feel confident that we're in good shape here," Legate said.

The growth in Utah environmental groups is a far cry from the national scene.

The Sierra Club's general ranks have shrunk from 630,000 to 500,000. Donations are also down, reflected in the group's 1995 budget, which is $40 million, $3.7 million less than it was in 1994. The Sierra Club's net worth has declined from $7.7 million in 1993 to an estimated $6.7 million by the end of this year.

To save themselves from extinction, Sierra Club officials are planning to reorganize, reducing their efforts on population control, energy conservation and international issues in favor of major campaigns to prevent pollution and preserve open spaces. Layoffs also are expected.

The Sierra Club is not alone in its problems. Donations also are down for Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society, the National Audubon Society and others.

Though national groups are having a bad year, regional green movements are doing well. That's one trend that is evident in the Beehive State with SUWA.

"We're quickly becoming one of the largest regional environmental groups in the western United States," said Ken Rait, issues coordinator for SUWA, which has a $600,000 budget with offices in Salt Lake City, Moab and Washington, D.C.

Rait said Utahns are becoming increasingly aware of the value of wilderness and preservation of natural resources.

"People are joining us because they agree with our philosophies," Rait said.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Utah membership in green groups

Here's a look at membership of green groups in Utah and what members pay:

Members Dues

Sierra Club (Utah chapter) 8,500 $35

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance 10,200 $25

Utah Wilderness Association 1,000 $25

Grand Canyon Trust 400 $25