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Half of Utahans Support Red Rock Wilderness Act

The Red Rock Wilderness Act would designate 9.4 million acres as wilderness in southern Utah.

The America's Red Rock Wilderness Act was introduced in Congress in 1989 to designate five million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands in southern Utah as wilderness.

The bill’s latest iteration would set aside 9.4 million acres as wilderness, including the Book Cliffs, Vermilion Cliffs, San Rafael Reef and the Wah Wah Mountains. The bill is before the 111th Congress (H.R. 1925), introduced by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (N.Y.-22). The Senate version is S.799. The bill has 137 cosponsors in the House and 20 co-sponsors in the Senate. The bill got its first congressional hearing on October 1, 2009 before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

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These lands have long been on the radar for oil and gas drilling, uranium and other mineral mining. A “wilderness” designation would mean no commercial activity, such as oil and gas development, and off limits to off-road vehicles.

A poll released Oct. 5, 2009, commissioned by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, one of the proponents of the bill, found that 50 percent of the 609 Utah respondents favor new wilderness designation. Nineteen percent say it should be something less than that, and another 14 percent say no land should designated as wilderness. The survey margin of error is plus or minus four percent.

All five members of Utah's congressional delegation oppose the bill and want these lands open to energy development.

Some opponents of the bill note that Utah already has massive wilderness areas set aside (22 percent of Utah’s land), including Zion, Canyon Lands, Bryce, Capital Reef and Arches national parks, Cedar Breaks, Rainbow Bridge, Natural Bridges, Hovenweep, Timpanogos Cave, Dinosaur, Pipe Springs and Grand Staircase national monuments.

Flying over Utah puts into perspective the state’s huge, barren land areas. The 9.4 million acres is an area larger than some states. New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island combined could fit into this space.

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May 19, 2019, 8:19 am PDT

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