All's not Swell

  In a surprise move, Utah Rep. Chris Cannon, R, says he wants to see more wilderness in the San Rafael Swell of southern Utah, and he's written a new bill to prove it.


Cannon's bill would designate as wilderness about 400,000 acres of BLM land in the San Rafael Swell, and it would also set aside areas for nonmotorized use and bighorn sheep management.


But it would also prevent the Bureau of Land Management from considering any more land in Emery and Carbon counties for wilderness status, effectively eliminating more than 650,000 acres from another congressional bill, the citizens' proposal for 5.7 million acres of wilderness in Utah.


"We're ginning up a full-court press to stop this thing," says Scott Groene of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "It's clearly an anti-wilderness bill."


Groene says the bill would validate "a spaghetti plate" of road claims in the Swell. It would also get rid of interim wilderness protection for about 140,000 acres of land and allow some motorized use in wilderness areas.


Jeff Hartley, spokesman for Rep. Cannon, counters, "It's the same old noise we've heard before from people who refuse to compromise."


But national BLM director Pat Shea also opposes the plan, and says his agency will recommend a presidential veto.


Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, R, has agreed to introduce the bill into the Senate, says Hartley, and is expected to make some changes in order to address the concerns of the Bureau of Land Management. The text of H.R. 3625 can be found on the Web at http://thomas.loc.gov. - Michelle Nijhuis


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