SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne is backing a wilderness designation sought by Utah to prevent the Goshutes from hosting a nuclear waste repository on their reservation in Skull Valley, near the Utah Test and Training Range.
Wynne signed a letter Tuesday expressing support for the proposed wilderness area in the Cedar Mountains and other land-use restrictions near the reservation, The Salt Lake Tribune said.
Wynne said the Air Force was comfortable that the creation of the wilderness area would not impair the Air Force's ability to use the range.
"It's always a good sign when you have the secretary of the Air Force saying we're aware of this provision and we like it," said Mike Lee, counsel to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who was in Washington this week lobbying members of Congress to adopt the wilderness language.
The restrictions are intended to prevent a rail line from being built to deliver waste to the Skull Valley Reservation.
The Cedar Mountain provision was included in the House-passed version of a major defense bill earlier this year, but not the Senate version.
The leaders of the House Armed Services Committee continue to support the measure, but it is not clear whether their Senate counterparts will agree to include it in the final version.
The provision, sponsored by Rep. Bob Bishop, R-Utah, would create 100,000 acres of wilderness area.
Lee said the matter is still in play right now, and he likely will know more by the end of the week.
"It's uncertain who the real enemies of the proposal are," Lee told the Deseret Morning News. "Over the next 48 hours it will become clearer of what will happen. The lobbying effort has not stopped."
Sue Martin, spokeswoman for Private Fuel Storage, the utilities consortium behind the proposed repository, said the final language of the wilderness area designation would need to be examined before its exact impact would be known.
Martin said the site's license application, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved, allowed for a rail route to be built as well as possibly using heavy-haul trucks to transport waste.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)