The federal government will give Kane and Garfield counties $100,000 each to help them participate in the three-year process of developing land-management plans for the new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

That has environmental groups, which are often at odds with those two counties, howling that is an unfair subsidy that their groups don't enjoy.Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, announced the funding, which he said he obtained in negotiations with the Interior Department to help ease financial burdens created by the new monument.

"It would be a serious drain on county budgets to even participate in the comprehensive planning process," which President Clinton promised when he formed the monument, Orton said.

A statement by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt added, "I share that concern and have directed my office to work with the congressman and the counties to develop agreements to help citizens prepare for and benefit from the planning efforts over the next three years."

But Lawson LeGate, spokesman for the Sierra Club, criticized the move. "We don't get a federal subsidy to help us participate."

And he contended that counties don't deserve the money because they are suing to stop Babbitt from conducting a re-inventory of potential wilderness areas and are being sued by the government to stop regrading some roads. "You don't sue someone, then give them money they might use to help defend themselves," he said.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance also quickly petitioned for $480,000 to similarly pay for its participation in planning and used what appeared to be tongue-in-cheek language to slam Kane and Garfield county activities.

For example, SUWA pledged that it would not use the money for "unlawful road-grading activities on public lands . . . to file frivolous lawsuits against the federal government's efforts to maintain ongoing resource inventories" or to "hang in effigy either the president of the United States or the secretary of the interior."