There must be some balance reached in the final decision on wilderness in Utah. Utah has a wonderfully broad natural resource heritage, and all of these resources warrant consideration when making land-use decisions that will shape our future. Wilderness, parks, recreation, agriculture, timber, minerals, rural towns and cities are all part of the equation.
The 5.7 million-acre wilderness proposal backed by national environmental groups goes too far in searching for this balance. This proposal is actually much larger than it appears. Included in these proposed wilderness areas are some 600,000 acres of state trust land and a minimum of 300,000 acres of federal, state and private lands in enclaves surrounded by wilderness, all of which will be essentially wilderness.The proposal by the state's congressional delegation for approximately 2 million acres of wilderness will include perhaps 300,000 acres of state lands and enclaves and will also carry the burden of creating some land-use restrictions on surrounding lands. The advantage of this proposal is that it clearly avoids conflicts with many, but not all, other resource uses. It attempts to avoid conflict by not withdrawing or, importantly, not jeopardizing access to other resources. It does not pre-empt water rights. Non-wilderness lands will be non-wilderness.
Major impacts will be felt on grazing, agriculture, energy resource development and non-wilderness recreation if the 5.7 million acre proposal is chosen.
Likewise, non-wilderness recreation, such as hunting, fishing, and family hiking and camping based on reasonable road or off-road access will be greatly diminished by choosing the 5.7 million-acre withdrawal.
Russell C. Babcock
Consulting geologist and chairman, Utah Geological Survey Advisory Board
Salt Lake City