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Matheson ‘medium green’ environmentally

Stance mostly pleases audience at Westminster

SHARE Matheson ‘medium green’ environmentally

You could say 2nd District Democratic candidate Jim Matheson wears a middle shade of environmental green. Not too light but not too dark.

And that seemed just about right to most of the 50 or so in attendance at Wednesday night's non-debate at Westminster College, sponsored by the Utah

Environmental Congress. Republican candidate Derek Smith was invited, but he had other commitments.

That meant Matheson had the pro-environment audience to himself, and he used the chance to address a catalog of environmental concerns.

How does he feel about reintroducing the wolf to Utah's mountains? Well, he hadn't really thought about it, but it sounded OK to him.

What about draining Lake Powell? Not realistic, he said. But the government could do more to require the dam to keep river flows closer to natural conditions.

Shipping nuclear waste to Utah? "Absolutely opposed," he said, referring to a proposal by a consortium of private utilities to store 40,000 tons of nuclear waste at the Goshute Indian Reservation in Skull Valley.

Does he support 9.1 million acres of wilderness? Maybe, but maybe not. However, "I'm an advocate for wilderness."

How about banning logging on public lands? Certainly, logging should be banned in roadless areas, he said. But he's hesitant to extend the ban to all public forests. "What we should do is forget (federal) subsidies," he added to applause.

Should American presidents be allowed to create national monuments with a stroke of a pen? "I'm a big believer of protecting public lands," he said. "But personally I don't like the process."

How would he reduce air pollution? In addition to tougher enforcement of clean air standards, "I would encourage alternative fuel vehicles," he said.

What does he think about Legacy Highway? "I think Legacy Highway doesn't make sense economically or environmentally," he said.

Matheson, a son of former Gov. Scott Matheson, weaved and dodged his way through dozens of questions. Some answers evoked applause while others were greeted with stony silence.

"I agreed with about 50 percent of what he said," said Denise Boggs, executive director of Utah Environmental Congress. But she was pleased with the quality of questions from the audience.

There were a lot of questions Matheson didn't answer to the satisfaction of some like Sierra Club member Wayne Hoskinson.

"But it was nice to know he's coming here with an open mind on resolving difficult issues," added Jason Groenewold, director of Families Against Incinerator Waste.

E-mail: donna@desnews.com