Guest Editorial: Federal wilderness bill pushed by enviro groups draws heated opposition from Utah legislators
Utah Reps draw link between bills impact on energy production and support for terrorist-supporting foreign nations
Two Utah lawmakers say a plan by a New York Congressman and a Utah-based environmental group to "lock away" more than 9 million acres of land in Utah as wilderness would "lead America to become more dependent on energy from hostile foreign nations," some of which they say "fund terrorist organizations that are right now targeting our American men and women in uniform."
In a letter sent recently to more than 160,000 Utah residents, State Representatives Aaron Tilton (R-UT-65) and Mike Noel (R-UT-73) warned that a bill in Congress sponsored by New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and pushed by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance would "weaken America" and "would cost Utah hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues that help fund our local communities and schools because it will lock away much of Utah's valuable mineral resource from environmentally sound development."
"This radical New York Congressman doesn't trust Utahns to do the right thing on lands in our state. He wants to lock them away forever from virtually all uses. His proposal would even discriminate against disabled Utahns by making it harder to access these lands in some types of wheelchairs," they warned.
The bill proposed by Hinchey, H.R. 1919, proposes to designate lands as wilderness in the following areas: Great Basin; Zion and Mojave Desert; the Grand Staircase-Escalante; Moab-La Sal Canyons; Henry Mountains; Glen Canyon; San Juan-Anasazi; Canyonlands Basin; San Rafael Swell; and Book Cliffs and Uinta Basin.
"This land-grab is opposed by every single member of Utah's delegation in Congress," they wrote. "In spite of this, it is being pushed by an extremist political group right here in Utah -- SUWA -- with millions of dollars from Eastern extremists and Hollywood elites."
SUWA recently was in the news after two of its long-time board members resigned following disclosure of criminal activity. Board members Bert Fingerhut and Mark Ristow, the group's former long-time treasurer, each pled guilty to federal fraud charges, according to coverage in the Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City. The two men had served on the SUWA board for 18 and 20 years, respectively.
The legislators said the bill "is wrong for Utah and will hurt our citizens."
"It will cost Utah hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues that help fund our local communities and schools because it will lock away much of Utah's valuable mineral resource from environmentally sound development," they wrote.
"It will raise the cost of energy and drive monthly utility bills higher -- hurting low-income families the most," they wrote. "It will discourage new businesses from coming to Utah and discourage the creation of new, high-paying jobs.
"And, it will even weaken America," they wrote. "How? Because it will hamstring our ability to produce American energy right here in Utah. That leads America to become more dependent on energy from hostile foreign nations -- some of whom fund terrorist organizations that are right now targeting our American men and women in uniform."
The legislators urged citizens to express opposition to the bill and SUWA's campaign.
The grassroots campaign launched by the legislators also asks Utahns to sign a citizen petition that would be distributed to Hinchey's office and distributed to media in his New York district. They urged Utahns to tell their elected representatives in Congress, along with the Bureau of Land Management in Utah, why Hinchey's plan should be opposed.