As promised, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., reintroduced his bill Wednesday to designate 5.7 million acres of wilderness in Utah - or about a 10th of the entire state.

Hinchey waited for the number of House bills to reach 1,500, so he could have the same HR1500 bill number that his proposal has had in recent years.Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, had asked Hinchey not to introduce the bill this Congress to allow a two-year "cooling-off" period in which the focus could be on how best to manage the new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Utah's members of Congress have said they do not plan to introduce a rival bill of their own to promote their preferred proposal of about 2.1 million acres of wilderness.

But they also said they can easily block Hinchey's bill in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, chairman of the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, said he will hold a hearing and debate on Hinchey's bill but that Hinchey probably won't recognize it once Republicans are finished.

That means the HR1500 bill that environmental groups have long pushed by name and number could be converted essentially into the Utah leaders' proposal for much less wilderness.

Meanwhile, environmental groups praised Hinchey for reintroducing his bill - and for attracting 103 cosponsors for it so far. (Of course, the House has 435 members, and at least 218 must support it for passage).

"This is an overwhelming endorsement," said Mike Matz, executive director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "Representatives from 28 states have recognized that the wild lands of Utah need to be preserved, and now it's time for the Utah representatives to do the same."

Meanwhile, in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, SUWA and other environmental groups that are part of the Utah Wilderness Coalition protested at a DuPont Corp. stockholders' meeting plans by its subsidiary, Conoco, to drill for oil in Grand Staircase.

Conoco hopes to drill an exploratory well on state-owned school trust lands that are surrounded by the new monument.

"Drilling for oil in the national monument is as inappropriate as capping Old Faithful for geothermal power or stripping the gold out of the Sistine Chapel," said Tom Price, national grassroots coordinator for SUWA.

On Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee also planned an afternoon hearing on a bill by the Utah delegation to codify promises it says President Clinton made when he declared the monument. They say he may be reneging on those promises.