Rep. Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.) who is expected to be chairman of the House Interior Committee, said yesterday that energy development of federal lands should not be turned over to a new energy department.
Udall said that if President-elect Jimmy Carter wishes to consolidate energy functions now scattered throughout the federal bureaucracy by breaking up the Interior Department, "You've got a fight on your hands from some members of Congress."
Should such a break-up occur, however, Udall suggested that the U.S. Forest Service, now in the Agriculture Department, and the Army Corps of Engineers, which builds water projects and is now in the Defense Department, should be turned over to the Interior Department.
"Some things are going to hit the fan," Udall predicted in a breakfast meeting with reporters. "It would be a mistake to turn over the public lands with all their competing interests to a department whose sole function is to promote energy development. We need balanced management."
Roughly a third of all U.S. land is owned by the federal government. Federal lands contain vast coal, oil shale and other mineral resources that are expected to fuel the nation as domestic oil runs out.
"You take 10 square files in Wyoming or Montana," said Udall, "which has some federal coal, some oil shale, some ranchers with cattle, some copper mines, some timber interests, some recreational and environmental ueses.
"The Interior Department has traditionally been the guardian of these natural resources. Its Bureau of Land Management and its other agencies have developed a relationship of trust. Everyone knows the ground rules."
James R. Schlesinger, Carter's choice for new energy chief, "wants to take charge," Udall said. "But my advice is to move slowly." He added, however, that the Federal Energy Administration and the Energy Research and Development Administration could easily be merged into a new energy department.