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Frequently Asked Questions: The Citizens’ Proposal for Wilderness in Utah

What is the Citizens’ Wilderness proposal?

Because of flaws in the original BLM inventory, the BLM in Utah is currently protecting only 3.2 million acres as Wilderness Study Areas. Due to strong pro-development pressure, the agency has recommended just 1.9 million acres for wilderness designation. The over 255 (and still growing) citizens' groups which form the Utah Wilderness Coalition have identified more than 9 million acres of BLM lands that meet the criteria for wilderness and which deserve protection. This is only 9 million acres out of approximately 23 million acres of BLM-administered, public land in Utah. These proposed wilderness lands account for roughly 17.3% of all the land in Utah.

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How was the Citizens’ Wilderness Proposal compiled?

The proposal was the result of a massive volunteer effort, involving many thousands of hours of fieldwork. The BLM’s own criteria for what does and does not posses wilderness characteristics were strictly adhered to, but the BLM’s anti-wilderness bias was discarded.

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How was the BLM inventory appealed?

Utah conservationists filed a series of appeals with the Interior Board of Land Appeals. One such appeal was 2,000 pages long, containing 300 photographs. It covered 925,000 acres on 29 roadless areas. In 1983 the IBLA ruled that the BLM decisions had been in error on 90 percent of the lands under appeal. But only 30 days were allowed to file the appeal. Conservationists’ resources were stretched to the breaking point and many eligible areas were never appealed. Upon reconsideration, the BLM reinstated as WSAs fewer than half of the areas that had been successfully appealed. Oversight hearings conducted by then Representative John Seiberling in 1984 and 1985 documented these inventory deficiencies but the Department of Interior refused to consider additional WSAs.

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Who gave authority for the Citizens’ Wilderness Proposal?

Because any member of Congress can introduce any Wilderness proposal, regardless of whether the federal agency involved has any recommendation, the public at large can develop its own proposal for any member of Congress to introduce.

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Won’t these lands remain wild simply because they are so remote and rugged?

Fifty years ago Utah still had 18 million acres of roadless public wild lands; only half of this remains today. We continue to lose public land to construction, to off-road vehicle damage, and to misguided range management such as chaining, and to other human impacts. Our capacity to alter natural landscape is immense and growing.

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