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Environmental extremists should accept delegation's compromise

For many years this office has been attempting to craft legislation that would solve the contentious wilderness debate in Utah. We have worked on wilderness legislation for years and fully understand the 1964 Wilderness Act.

After 15 years of study at the cost of $10 million, the Bureau of Land Management professionals recommended 1.9 million acres in 1991. The Utah delegation closely followed that recommendation with the 1995 bill of 1.8 million acres. Later it was increased to 2.1 million acres at the request of then-Rep. Enid Greene. Whip checks clearly demonstrated this bill would pass both the House and the Senate, in spite of the millions spent by the environmental community that was intent on derailing the bill. However, it was also obvious that President Clinton would veto the bill and that there was not sufficient support for an override.Compromise is always the final approach to a difficult problem and we could see that, as unpopular as it would be with most Utahns, we proposed trying to resolve this issue by going to a proposal of a total of 4.1 million acres of new wilderness for Utah. This acreage is twice the size of the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia combined and is in addition to the nearly 1 million acres of existing National Forest wilderness areas already set aside in the state.

In this spirit of compromise, we were hoping that honest and sincere people on all sides of the issue would, at the very least, say that they would analyze, think about and study this proposal.

Gratefully, the three major Utah papers editorialized by stating that it should be given a chance. Not so with the environmental community. Ted Wilson, acting as spokesman for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance on KUTV, dismissed the proposal as "subterfuge," before he even saw it. Scott Groene of SUWA made a flippant remark about the proposal. Our door is always open to serious, reasonable people. However, it is disappointing when all we get are the usual personal attacks from this group. Even Congressman Maurice Hinchey, an avowed environmentalist and sponsor of the 5.7 million acre wilderness proposal, has publicly denounced that form of rhetoric.

Possibly LaVarr Webb is right (Deseret News, Sept. 27). The extreme environmental community says there is no room for compromise or debate; "they are always right. Everyone else is always wrong." It is becoming absolutely clear that they really don't want a resolution of this matter. As we have stated many times, our door is open for honest and reasonable debate. I hope the people of Utah who live, work and recreate on these lands will take the time to study this proposal as a responsible solution to this contentious issue.

The delegation has worked hard to achieve a reasonable balance in this latest proposal. For the third time in as many years, we have included additional acreage in response to the environmentalists' repeated charges that not enough land would be protected.

We have gone about as far as possible without blatantly violating the legal requirements of the 1964 Wilderness Act, or decimating the economic interests of southern Utah. Now it is time for those in the environmental community to quit shouting from the sidelines and to help resolve this contentious issue by supporting this compromise.