Utah tells Babbitt to back off

  Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has been sued by the state of Utah for his decision to reopen the process of wilderness designation (HCN, 9/2/96).

Filed Oct. 14 in federal court, the suit challenges the legality of Babbitt's "re-inventory" of Bureau of Land Management lands in Utah without public involvement. Babbitt announced on July 24 that he would send experts to Utah to study the agency's roadless lands, but that the public would be involved after the staff had completed its work, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Wilderness has been a bitterly disputed issue since the state BLM identified 2.1 million acres of potential wilderness while environmentalists said 5.7 million acres qualified for protection.

Joining the state's suit were the Utah Association of Counties and the Office of State Institutional Trust Lands Administration. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told a press conference that the suit represented the fight for "freedom as a whole in this country."

*Betsy Marston

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