The Utah Wilderness Association will go into hibernation March 29 after 17 years of fighting for wilderness preservation.
Staff departures and money woes led to the decision by the group's board of directors. One of UWA's founders, Dick Carter, says his resignation, plus those of George Nickas and Gary Macfarlane over the last two years, had left the group leaderless. In addition, the group's lackadaisical fund raising never let it pay staffers more than $15,000 a year.
Recently, UWA's clout has withered. The group failed to settle the Utah wilderness debate with a 3 million-acre-compromise, Carter says, because some environmentalists and the state's congressional delegation ignored its approach.
The notion of forging common ground was a flop, agrees Ken Rait of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which has pushed for a 5.7 million-acre wilderness bill along with a national coalition of environmental groups. "They tried to craft a compromise when there is no spirit of compromise," he says. "They lost their constituency by misreading the politics."
But UWA is worth resurrecting someday, Carter believes. The group's accomplishments include successfully negotiating the state's wilderness bill for national forests in 1984, its revelation that the BLM had "overlooked" 800,000 acres in its inventory of roadless lands, and its early lobbying on behalf of a BLM wilderness bill.