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Wilds label may be unnecessary, even illegal

As a former county commissioner in rural Utah, I am concerned about the assault by environmentalists upon the rights of our citizens and the locking up of natural resources through their efforts to force wilderness designation upon large tracts of land in Utah. With the support of the Clinton and Al Gore administration, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt (an environmentalist himself) is abusing his "regulatory powers" and is engaging in a deliberate effort to close off access to as much public land as he can get away with. ". . . we will soon become trespassers in our own back yards." -- Rainer Huck.

While I was a Millard County commissioner, I was proactive in encouraging and maintaining the "multiple-use" concept for public land. Because of the well-established agencies already in place, i.e. the Forest Service, the Park Service and the BLM, we do not need nor want the extreme measures that "wilderness" designation imposes, and I question the need for a management change. Also, I am concerned that the road closures advocated by environmental extremists will serve only to erode the economic base potential for rural counties and severely limit recreational activities. It is important for all county commissioners not to give in to the extremely well-financed and well-organized extremists whose goal it is to dictate public land policy and ultimately restrict public land use to suit the notions of "liberal-minded" individuals who don't live in rural Utah nor pay taxes here but feel they know best how to manage Utah's assets.The so-called environmentalist movement has become a powerful political force because of its enormous financial resources. Its relentless effort to close access to public land by proclaiming huge tracts of public land as "wilderness" is at the very least an assault upon the very lifestyle of rural Utah. The existing roads on public lands are road rights of way given to all states in which they exist, as designated by Congress in the 1866 Mining Law. If we accept the proposed Title V or Cherry Stemming initiatives (neither concept is in the 1964 Wilderness Act), we will ultimately lose access to those roads. RS2477 roads belong to the county, and there is no need to give up the rights to them. The 1964 Wilderness Act specifically excludes any public land from wilderness designation that has been impacted by man. (The most obvious impact is that of the existence of roads.) However, under Babbitt's direction, prior congressional legislation is being ignored and Babbitt is proceeding to dictate and impose his personal agenda upon the BLM and other federal agencies that currently manage pubic land.

The Utah Wilderness Coalition and some hand-picked BLM representatives recently reinventoried our western desert and decided more land should be wilderness. I dare say that their findings are biased and nor particularly objective in scope. (Local BLM employees were not involved.) It is offensive that untrained volunteers can determine the public land use right here in our backyard without our consent. Rural citizens should be outraged over Babbitt's efforts to dictate changes in the historical use of our pubic land. According to public land use experts, the current wilderness designation process in not only unnecessary but is illegal as well.

Please question the process by writing your comments and concerns to: Linda Colville, state BLM director, WSA Planning Team, Box 45144, SLC, UT 84145. Also, send copies to Governor Leavitt; 210 State Capitol, SLC, UT 84114, and your county Commissioners before the June 21 deadline.

Lana R. Moon

Former Millard County commissioner