The Wilderness Society yesterday charged that since December, Interior Secretary James G. Watt has been eliminating thousands of acres in 10 western states from possible inclusion in the federal wilderness system.
The controversy involves 24 million acres of wilderness study areas, land that Congress ordered protected against development until it decides whether to include it in the wilderness system.
In December, Watt announced that 804,000 acres were being dropped from the study because the land had been improperly included in it. Watt also ordered a state-by-state review to determine if other areas should be dropped.
That review, which was completed Monday with publication of results from Arizona, determined that an additional 735,000 acres should be dropped.
More than 300,000 of those 1.5 million acres, however, are being studied for lesser types of protection.
Watt contends that the wilderness review is being conducted properly and is supported by Congress.
"We are doing what the law requires us to do or Congress would have undone it," he said.
The society said that Watt has ignored a resolution passed by the House Interior Committee in February that demanded a halt to the deletions and restoration of all dropped land.