A much-hyped race through Utah's canyon country has attracted record public comment - and exposed how difficult it is to get the public involved in managing public lands. "It's frustrating," says Dennis Willis, a recreation staffer in the Price, Utah, office of the Bureau of Land Management, which is doing an environmental assessment of the Eco-Challenge, a 300-mile running-biking-paddling, et cetera race planned to start April 25. The agency has received more than 800 comments - -more letters than on anything that's happened in southeastern Utah before," says Willis (HCN, 9/5/94). The entire Utah congressional delegation has weighed in favorably, but 90 percent of the comments, including a letter campaign by schoolchildren, has gone against the race. BLM staffers feel the irony because they are also evaluating a proposed coal-bed methane project, which would impose at least 1,100 gas wells on public land around Price. The methane project would significantly impact wildlife and recreation on 290 square miles for the next 30 years or so, but so far, it has received about one-one-hundredth the number of comments as the race. Willis laments, "Coal-bed methane is not a very sexy issue."


*Ray Ring