By SHAWN DICKERSON
A bill drafted to turn about one-tenth of the land in Utah into wilderness land will most likely not be brought to the House floor, said a representative of the House Committee on Resources.
The text of H.R. 1500, a bill sponsored by Congressman Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., calls for 5.7 million acres of federal land in Utah to be converted into wilderness land.
Greg Thayn, environmental specialist for the Utah office of the Bureau of Land Management, said wilderness land can only be designated by an act of Congress.
Areas designated as wilderness unfrequented by man and natural in appearance, where the evidence of man is substantially unnoticeable, he said. These areas allow for hiking, hunting, camping and fishing, but do not allow any mechanized vehicles, like automobiles, bikes or gliders on them.
Thayn said wilderness areas do not allow for mining projects or mineral extraction and also restrict cattle-grazing to the same level at which it exists when the land is designated.
Chris Arthur, legislative director for Rep. Hinchey, said H.R. 1500 was introduced because its supporters didn’t want to see the issue die.
This bill was introduced four years ago and two years ago with 19 and 50 co-sponsors, respectively. At its introduction in this year’s congressional session, it had 103 co-sponsors, he said.
Arthur said Hinchey was approached by Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, and asked if he would postpone introduction of the bill, but Hinchey felt a commitment to the bill’s supporters to introduce it.
Hinchey has received support for the bill from people both inside and outside of Utah, he said.
Peter Valcarce, communications director for Rep. Cannon, said there is a serious effort to block this bill.
“The problem with H.R. 1500 is that it’s setting aside too much land, and frankly, it includes land that is not scenic wilderness,” he said.
Valcarce said the proposal in the bill calls for much more land to be set aside than the Bureau of Land Management has suggested. He said their proposal lies somewhere around 3 million acres.
Steve Hansen, communications director for the House Committee on Resources, said it is unlikely that H.R. 1500 will reach the House floor, unless more convincing evidence supporting it can be shown.