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Slick-rock country and mountain islands in the desert. They're BLM wildlands.

The biggest surprises here are BLM wildlands--lands least familiar to us. Terry Sopher recalls his astonishment at the beauty and diversity he found during thousands of miles of travel in the West as head of the BLM's wilderness review from 1978 to 1981. "BLM lands provide more habitat for wildlife like antelope, deer, and eagles; have more diversity of ecosystems; and have more potential for major archeological discoveries than any other federal land agency. BLM wildlands are as spectacular as any I've seen in national parks and forests."

Southern Utah is particularly blessed and troubled. The Colorado Plateau's slick-rock country is so exceptional it boasts five national parks. Wildlands that anywhere else would rate national recognition were "dropped by the BLM because they weren't as spectacular as land next door," conservationists claimed. They scored a major victory--returning for wilderness consideration nearly 1 million of these acres. Opposition now comes from some rural communities and mining interests worried that wilderness status would mean fewer jobs and more government controls.

Forest are wilderness candidates in these states, too: conservationists seek to preserve BLM and Forest Service units in some of Nevada's 200 mountain ranges--literally mountain islands with waterfalls, meadows, streams, caverns, often unique vegetation and animals--cut off from each other by surrounding desert. Utah has its High Uintas, one of the biggest unprotected wildlands left in the lower 48. Colorado's Sangre de Cristo range--a cornucopia of sand dunes, waterfalls, lush valleys, 60 lakes, caves and antiquities, wildlife, plus 40 peaks of 13,000 to 14,000 feet--was left out of Colorado's 1980 wilderness law because of off-road-vehicle conflicts.
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Title Annotation:Nevada; Utah; Colorado
Date:May 1, 1984
Previous Article:Exploring the San Joaquin, 3.5 hours out of Fresno.
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