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PRESERVE WILDERNESS - AND WATER

Mark Twain once said that people in the West drink whiskey and fight over water. Though the whiskey part might not be true of the folks here in Utah, I believe the water issue is at the heart of the Utah BLM wilderness recommendation.

I am neither an ecosystem-searching backpacker nor an industrial bottom-line opportunist. As a 25-year resident of Salt Lake City, I have merely enjoyed driving into BLM land to camp in its unstructured spaciousness and pristine beauty. But the prospect of Utah's land now being put under the knife, so to speak, has regretfully forced me to take a side.The first question I asked myself was, "Why can't it just stay the way it is?" Of course the conclusion I came to was because Utah's county commissioners, congressional delegates and the governor are under much pressure to develop the land. And with this development comes a great need for water.

The scary thing is, Utah doesn't have that much water to begin with - and the water we do have is overappropriated now anyway. Add the factor of desert environments in the state and the importance of water intensifies. You ask anybody, rancher, miner, biologist, conservationist or politician, "How critical is water?" For once they will all agree. My personal feeling is that water should not belong to anybody - it is the lifeblood of Earth. Clean water is the stuff of which life is made.

So I must make a choice about who I think should have control over a big part of the few water systems we have in southern Utah. I must choose between the federal government protecting clean, natural water use through a wilderness provision, or local and international industrialists polluting our water to pocket profits.

I choose wilderness. I choose 5.7 million acres of Utah to contribute toward Earth's lifeblood and natural beauty. As has been suggested - let's consider it a 10 percent tithing back to God.

C.A. Carleson

Salt Lake City