Watt's Line

A peace ploy—and contempt

At first glance, Interior Secretary James G. Watt's sweeping federal wilderness proposal seemed an offer no conservationist could refuse. Its chief feature: closing up U.S. wilderness lands to oil and gas drilling, and even mineral mining, until the year 2000. Declared Watt: "We think these lands are special lands and should be preserved in their natural state."

Caught off guard, environmentalists at first welcomed the plan as a peace overture from the embattled Secretary. But their approval turned to dismay when they examined the fine print. Said John McComb, director of the Washington, D.C., office of the Sierra Club:...

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