Utah's mem-bers of Congress are finding themselves between a rock (Utah wilderness) and a hard place (proposed base closures) with a whopper of a scheduling conflict over what may be Utah's two biggest political issues.
All members had promised to attend a series of hearings on the volatile wilderness debate statewide. But conflicts arose when two members of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission changed schedules and decided to visit Utah on April 13 - the day two wilderness hearings had been scheduled.All members feel it is important to be at both sets of meetings to show unified support, but they cannot be - even with some tinkering in the schedules of wilderness meetings announced Tuesday.
"We want to be at all the places like we told the folks we would be, but we've got to split up," said Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah.
Hansen, whose district contains all bases proposed for closure, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, plan to stay with base closure commissioners Wendy Steele and Lee Kling throughout their visit. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, will spend part of the day with them.
Meanwhile, Rep. Enid Wald-holtz will attend wilderness hearings in Price from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Moab from 5 to 9 p.m. on April 13. (Meetings had previously been scheduled that day for Cedar City and Richfield). Bennett will join her for the Moab meeting.
The schedule for Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, is still unclear.
Most members hope to attend meetings now rescheduled on April 14 in Cedar City from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and in Richfield from 3 to 7 p.m. Those meetings had originally been scheduled for April 11.
"We can't control when base closure people decide to come, and wilderness is equally important, so we just have to deal with both at the same time," Waldholtz said.
Hatch said, "It's just one of those inevitable conflicts that drive you crazy. I wanted to be at all of the wilderness meetings but just can't be."
All offices said they will have appropriate staff at the meetings where they are unable to attend personally.