After years of waging verbal and legal battles with environmentalists over the public lands and the Burr Trail, Garfield County commissioners are also finding opposition to their wilderness proposals from the other side of the fence.

Two separate recommendations for designated wilderness in the county are being presented to Utah's congressional delegation, one from county commissioners and one from a group that doesn't want any wilderness.Weeks of intense study and preparation led to a proposal from the commission that removes 13 of the 18 wilderness study areas from designated wilderness while the Bureau of Land management's proposal would remove 14 areas.

The commission is also proposing that nearly 370,000 acres in Garfield County within the Glen Canyon National Recreation area and Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands national parks be designated as wilderness.

But that isn't satisfactory with the non-environmental "citizens' group" of county residents. The group has gathered about 1,100 signatures in Garfield County, 500 in Kane County and 200 in Wayne County from people who support no wilderness.

Ivan Lyman of Boulder said some areas proposed for wilderness have been used by livestock for more than 100 years, and he claims it is still wilderness. "So why does it have to be designated as wilderness except to exclude those who have used it to gain a living and have kept it in a wilderness state and excluded no one?"

He pointed out that some acreage previously used for grazing has also been turned into national park and recreation use. He further claims that some of the proposed areas don't answer the description for wilderness standards because of mining and other activities.

Such areas, however, have been excluded in the proposals of the county commissioners, who feel accepting some wilderness will result in regaining other areas.

But Lyman said, "If the SUWA (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance) and the backpackers were to come at one time into these areas already set aside for wilderness, there would still be room for more. Let those people use what they already have set aside for them."

Joel Greer, also of Boulder, commended Gov. Mike Leavitt for wanting to bring federal power back to the states but added, "Our governor is fighting against any more federal mandates to the states while he is issuing state mandates to the counties."

The governor and the state's congressional delegation requested that county commissions come up with recommendations for wilderness acreage that will be considered in introducing a bill in Congress to finally settle the wilderness issue.

Garfield County commissioners have made their recommendations based on the premise that there will be wilderness areas in the county, but they excluded areas where human uses have occurred.

"It was implied that we would be setting a precedent that will redefine wilderness, not as pristine, but as areas that include man's intrusions," Commissioners Louise Liston, Maloy Dodds and Clare Ramsay noted in a written statement. They adamantly denied accusations of betrayal of trust.

Commissioners said they and their staff have "spent weeks poring over dozens of different sources, maps, mineral reports, letters, comments, etc., to make certain we eliminate those very areas from our recommendation."

"We have jointly come to the conclusion that the easy way out would be to say `no wilderness,' but to do so, in our minds, would be letting others, primarily those sitting back in Washington, D.C., determine our destiny and do our designating for us. We have firmly resolved not to let that happen."

Commissioners added there have been some discrepancies in the citizen group's proposals.

They also stated that there are priority lands that environmentalists would love to see closed to all future development. On the other hand, "If we propose a `no wilderness' recommendation, we could lose all of those areas, and we simply cannot take that chance."

Garfield County commissioners said there are areas in the county where a cow can't even graze effectively that meet wilderness criteria, the loss of which would have no adverse effect on the economy. "These are the areas that we are willing to give up in order to exclude from wilderness designation those that are vital to our future."