Protect more of Utah as 'wilderness'

September 28, 1996

IN A SEPT. 20 editorial, The Sun took note of President Clinton's designation of a block of federal land in Utah as a national monument. Unfortunately, it gave an incomplete and misleading picture of public land issues in the state of Utah.

It is true that Utah politicians have opposed designation of federal land in the state as protected wilderness. However, the editorial fails to note that Utah's politicians are out of touch with their constituents on this issue.

Opinion polls have shown that Utah residents prefer more rather than less public land in their state to be accorded wilderness status. Indeed, in public hearings on wilderness issues convened by the governor of Utah in the spring of 1995, more than 70 percent of those commenting favored wilderness protection for 5.7 million acres of public land, as proposed in Congress in House Bill 1500, America's Red Rock Wilderness Act.

(Utah politicians are pushing a loophole-riddled bill that purports to protect 1.7 million acres, but has more to do with doublespeak than with wilderness protection).

The editorial cited claims that there would be an environmental cost to not exploiting the low-sulfur coals in the newly designated national monument.

However, there is no shortage of low-sulfur coal at other sites that are better served by the transportation network and that do not have the scenic, ecological and archaeological significance of the Utah lands.

Furthermore, the Dutch company that holds the leases in the national monument planned to export any coal it mined to Pacific Rim countries. There would be no direct benefit to U.S. air quality from burning this coal.

Finally, the editorial claimed that the president's action ''ended years of contention over the future of these federally owned lands in southern Utah.''

While this is true for the lands in the newly designated national monument, there are another 4 million acres of federally owned land in Utah of equal magnificence deserving preservation. The battle to save those lands continues.

Edward Hammerberg

Baltimore

Pub Date: 9/28/96

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