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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release March 27, 1996

I applaud the U.S. senators who voted today (3/27) to block passage of the Utah Public Lands Management Act, which is contained in the Omnibus Parks and Recreation Act. In particular, I commend Senators Bradley and Bumpers for their continued leadership on this issue.

Despite repeated, recent assertions to the contrary, the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill continues to promote an extreme, anti-environmental agenda. I strongly encourage the Republican leadership to drop the Utah Public Lands Management Act from the omnibus bill and send to President Clinton legislation that he can sign into law.

This bill would strip away protections from millions of acres of existing Utah wilderness. There are 20 million acres of Bureau of Land Management territory in Utah, and the Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt said that at least five million acres should qualify as wilderness areas. But this bill protects only two -- and inadequately at that. Worse, the Administration would be barred from applying any wilderness protective measures to the other 18 million acres. In short, this bill would effectively reduce the protection of Utah's wilderness lands to a level below that enjoyed by Utah's other public lands and by public lands throughout the West. It would significantly diminish the public's ability to enjoy open space and the great outdoors in this region. As the Salt Lake Tribune said, this bill is a sorry wilderness ploy.

Many of the other provisions in this bill are extremely important, however, and should be passed immediately. The Presidio is one of California's great treasures, and it must be protected for our use today and for future generations. The Sterling Forest must be protected as well -- the health of drinking water in New Jersey and New York depends on it.

The Republican leadership is holding these actions hostage, and the American people deserve better. Most of the omnibus bill is acceptable. I strongly encourage the Republican leadership to allow these provisions to be considered separately and send to President Clinton a bill that protects and preserves our environment -- one that he and the public can support. ##