Eric Bontrager from E&E News http://www.eenews.net/ reported on the re-offering of a massive Wilderness proposal pushed by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). Bontrager’s report stated that the bill, sponsored by New York Representative Maurice Hinchey and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, would designate 9.4 million acres of Bureau of Management Lands in Utah as Wilderness.
BRC notes that it is not clear whether the 9.4 million acre figure includes lands owned by the state of Utah. If state lands are included, the figure may well be over 10 million acres’.
The announcement will not be news to BRC’s members. SUWA has been able to convince New York Congressmen to introduce Wilderness in Utah for twenty years now.
What will be of interest to our members is Bontrager’s reporting of comments made by Utah Representative Rob Bishop and Jim Matheson:
“The fact that not one member of the Utah congressional delegation or political leader in Utah supports this shows how off-base and ridiculous this proposal is,” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah.) said in an e-mail. “This is not the way Congress should make designations like this.”
Rep. Jim Matheson, the Utah delegation’s lone Democrat whose district includes the proposed wilderness area, declined the opportunity to be a co-sponsor on the legislation because he felt other stakeholders such as the energy industry and OHV users were not included in the creation of the bill. “He understands that this does represent a lot of places that deserve designation, but this a very long-running, contentious debate,” said Matheson spokeswoman Alyson Heyrend. “He just feels strongly that, in order to get consensus, this has to be an inclusive process.”
BRC applauds Matheson and Bishop for their approach to SUWA’s unwise proposal. But we do not believe SUWA, or the Wilderness lobby in D.C., is interested in an “inclusive process.” This is why they must rely on Congressmen from New York to push their Utah Wilderness bill.
Our position is that any discussion of Utah Wilderness must include careful consideration of important strategic national interests (oil, natural gas and minerals) as well as popular recreational uses, such as OHV use and mountain biking, which are banned in Wilderness. BRC and other recreation groups support Wilderness where it is appropriate, but we insist that other “recreation friendly” designations, such as National Recreation Areas, be considered where it isn’t.
Our suggested Action Item is for our members and supporters to call Bishop and Matheson and thank them for their approach to SUWA’s bill.
Speaking honestly, I am beginning to wonder if the Utah Congressional Delegation knows we are here, and in what numbers. The treatment the Utah OHV community received via the recently passed Washington County Wilderness bill is disgraceful. We must never let that happen again.
So when our political representatives do the right thing, we need to thank them.
Salt Lake City Office – (801) 486-1236
Washington DC Office – (202) 225-3011
Go to http://www.sharetrails.org/rapid_response/, enter your zip code and click go. Select Jim Matheson from the list of Representatives, then click on the Contact tab. Click on the Web Form link, and follow the instructions.
Ogden Office – (801) 625-0107
Washington DC Office – (202) 225-0453
Go to http://www.sharetrails.org/rapid_response/, enter your zip code and click go. Select Rob Bishop from the list of Representatives, then click on the Contact tab. Click on the Web Form link, and follow the instructions.
Provo Office – (801) – 851-2500
Washington DC Office – (202) 225-7751
Go to http://www.sharetrails.org/rapid_response/, enter your zip code and click go. Select Jason Chaffetz from the list of Representatives, then click on the Contact tab. Click on the Web Form link, and follow the instructions.