Proposal to allow leasing of wilderness draws fire

An administration bill that could open vast areas of wilderness to mineral development drew strong opposition from Democrats at a House Interior Committee meeting.

The administration bill would allow the President to permit leasing in wilderness areas between 1983 and 2000 -- and would open all wilderness areas to leasing beginning in 2000.

Secretary of the Interior James Watt said the bill would provide for continued protection of the 200 million acres of wilderness, but California Democratic Representative John Burton called it ''a complete fraud and deception . . . a blueprint for destroying the wilderness.''

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