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Richard Piatt ReportingThe Governor's office today unveiled a wilderness plan to resolve a 30-year dispute over public lands in Utah.
It is as simple--and as complicated--as just asking the stakeholders what they think and then getting them to sit down and talk about it. And there is a lot to talk about.
Millions of acres of land are essentially in limbo right now: Should it have wilderness protection? Should people be allowed to camp, off-road, mine, or hunt on it?
In the past, the government has tried to propose compromises: divide some of the land up, let people have access to this-or-that amount. But it's never worked.
What's new is this: The Governor has all stake holders agree to come to the table and stay at the table, going acre by acre if necessary, to hash out the concerns.
Alan Gardner, Washington County Commissioner: "You bet we're hopeful or we wouldn't be involved. Wilderness has been an issue for a long time with the rural counties, and I'm hopeful."
Scott Groene, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance: "Everyone needs to have input. But I think we'll resolve this issue by recognizing that these lands are important to Utah, as well as the rest of the country, and they deserve protection."
The Governor and Lieutenant Governor announced the first meeting will be in June in Washington county.
At a news conference today, most of the stakeholders were present---symbolic, the Governor claims, of the support for this plan to sort the issue out. If it works, this could be a significant step forward in the lingering wilderness designation fight. But it could take years, and then only Congress has the power to give it a thumbs up or down.