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Environmentalists and public-land users blasted a proposal Wednesday by a Utah congressman that would stop funding the National Landscape Conservation System, warning such a move would cut money for special lands such as Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and possibly close some areas to the public.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, proposed the prohibition on funding the system and says it would not close anything — just eliminate duplicative administration of lands that the Bureau of Land Management already administers. The Clinton administration created the system to protect sensitive lands managed by the BLM, but Bishop said it's unneeded.

"The NLCS has created an unnecessary, costly and confusing two-tiered system within the BLM that clouds the BLM's historic mission," Bishop said in a news release.

Conservation groups assembled by the Conservation Lands Foundation in Durango, Colo., conducted a teleconference Wednesday to assail Bishop's proposal, which he filed as an amendment to Congress' continuing budget resolution.

"This would be devastating, in our minds, to the cultural and natural resources in the American West," said Brian O'Donnell, executive director of the foundation. "It would limit Americans' ability to enjoy their lands."

The teleconference included advocates for lands in the system saying they feared the amendment could result in public access closures or lack of policing against archaeological looting or vandalism.

A spokeswoman for Bishop said that's not true, because the BLM still could budget its normal appropriations to those purposes.

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