Saying the wilderness bill by Utah's Republicans in Congress is "far off the mark," the Clinton administration threatened Thursday to veto it.

It creates too little wilderness, hinders protecting nearby land and doesn't even protect well the wilderness it does create, Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Sylvia Baca told the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Lands and Forests."This bill is far off the mark. If the bill were presented to the president in its current form, Secretary (of the Interior Bruce) Babbitt would recommend that he veto it," said her prepared testimony for the panel chaired by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, a sponsor of the bill.

Utah Republicans are proposing 1.8 million acres of wilderness on U.S. Bureau of Land Management areas in Utah, which is near the 1.9 million that the Interior Department recommended during the Bush administration.

"We are not bound by positions developed and taken during the past two administrations," she said. "Specifically, the Bush administration's recommendation of 1.9 million acres is inadequate to protect Utah's great wilderness resources."

However, she said the Clinton administration has not taken a firm position on how much more acreage it would take to please it. "We have drawn no line in the sand concerning any particular number," she said.

She especially attacked provisions in the Utah bill that allow continued grazing, mining, roads, pipelines and other activities with machines in some wilderness areas, saying that may allow activity not currently allowed even on regular BLM lands.

"This bill would create the ironic situation that management inside wilderness could be less protective than management of public lands not designated as wilderness," she said.

She also complained the bill prohibits BLM lands not included as formal wilderness from being managed for wilderness values, only for "non-wilderness multiple uses" - and bans "buffer areas" where activities might be limited to protect wilderness.

She said that could "prohibit any BLM management action or technique that had the incidental effect of protecting any characteristic or quality of an area that resembled designated wilderness," which she said is "unprecedented and inappropriate."

However, Gov. Mike Leavitt testified that the provisions attacked by the Clinton administration "are important. My support of the proposal is dependent on many of these provisions."

Despite her complaints, Baca told Hansen the administration is ready to work with him on a bill "if you feel the possibility exists to craft legislation which accommodates the concerns we have expressed here today."

Aides to members of Congress and lobbyists who support the Republican bill said rejecting it is an easy veto for Clinton, because it would please national environmental groups that want more wilderness and because Clinton is not popular in Utah anyway.

They guessed that if the House and Senate proceed with the bill, it may take other deals by Utah members to secure Clinton's approval, such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, playing hardball on Clinton's judicial nominations.

Baca was not the only one critical of the bill in hearings Thursday, which continued a series of hearings that began in Utah last week. Some said it created too much wilderness, others said it created too little.

Rep. Enid Waldholtz, R-Utah, again said she wants to add 363,373 acres of wilderness to the bill. Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, said he will introduce his own bill soon to also create some national conservation areas to protect land while permitting more multiple use.

Emery County Commissioner Kent Peterson said he wished the bill created less wilderness but could live with its provisions. Kane County Commissioner Joe Judd said he preferred less - but insisted provisions the Clinton administration attacked on not tying up nearby land is essential to future coal mining.

"I cannot sit back and concede our future to a low-wage, seasonal economy based on tourism," he said. "Selling hamburgers, pumping gas or making beds simply does not provide for a healthy economic or social climate in our com-munities."