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DOI Reverses Position on “Wild Lands” Designations


June 02, 2011

(SitNews) Washington, DC – U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) Director Bob Abbey confirmed Wednesday that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a memo to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reversed his order allowing the Bureau of Land Management to set aside federal acres as "Wild Lands” and outlined how the Department will work in collaboration with Members of Congress, states, tribes, and local communities to identify public lands that may be appropriate candidates for congressional protection under the Wilderness Act.

“The protection of America’s wilderness for hunting, fishing, and backcountry recreation should be a unifying issue that mobilizes us to a common purpose,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

“We will focus our effort on building consensus around locally-supported initiatives and working with Members to advance their priorities for wilderness designations in their states and districts. Together, we can advance America’s proud wilderness legacy for future generations,” said Salazar.

In the memo, Secretary Salazar directs Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes to work with the BLM and interested parties to develop recommendations regarding the management of public lands with wilderness characteristics.

Noting the longstanding and widespread support for the designation of wilderness areas, Salazar also directed Hayes to solicit input from members of Congress, state and local officials, tribes and federal land managers to identify BLM lands that may be appropriate candidates for Congressional protection under the Wilderness Act. Hayes will deliver a report to the Secretary and Congress regarding those areas.

Regarding Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s decision to reverse his order allowing the Bureau of Land Management to set aside federal acres as "Wild Lands", Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said in a prepared statement, “I’m pleased the U.S. Department of the Interior has heard Western states’ concerns and stepped back from its unprecedented attack on states’ resource-based economies."

Parnell said, " Although it is too early to say how the Administration will view future land use, we will continue to make the case at every opportunity that resource development can be done responsibly."

" We will continue to push for drilling access in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, which we have maintained is exempt from federal wild land set asides. And, we will continue to oppose wilderness or other land designations that kill jobs and prevent responsible economic development,” said Parnell.

Regarding Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in a prepared statement, “I appreciate Secretary Salazar’s commitment to me that the BLM will not pursue wild lands designations in Alaska.”

Murkowski said. “Both the Senate and the House have been clear that Congress retains sole authority and responsibility to designate lands for inclusion in the National Wilderness System. That’s how I believe it should be and I will work to ensure that the current ban on creating wilderness – by any name – unilaterally by the administration is continued in the next budget resolution.”

Murkowski is the ranking member of both the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee.

“I am pleased to see Secretary Salazar’s decision, as this is the position I have advocated for since the beginning of this discussion. Particularly, I was concerned this could impact oil and gas development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska," said U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) in a prepared statement.

“I met with BLM Director Robert Abbey today [Wednesday] in Anchorage who assured me BLM will not designate more wild lands and new leases in the NPR-A will move forward this year as President Obama stated in his radio address just a few weeks ago," said Begich.

In his memo, Salazar also confirmed that BLM must continue to meet its responsibilities under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), including the requirement that it maintain inventories of the public lands, their resources and other values that it manages.

The BLM currently manages 221 Wilderness Areas designated by Congress and 545 Wilderness Study Areas, comprising approximately 8.8 percent of the nearly 245 million acres managed by the BLM.

In December, 2010, Secretary Salazar issued Secretarial Order 3310, directing the BLM to use the public resource management planning process to gather public input and designate certain lands with wilderness characteristics as “Wild Lands.” On April 14, 2011, Congress passed the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011, which includes a provision that prohibits the use of appropriated funds to implement, administer, or enforce Secretarial Order 3310 in fiscal year 2011.


On the Web:

Read Secretary Salazar’s signed memo


Edited by Mary Kauffman

Sources of News: 

U.S. Department of Interior

Office of the Governor

Office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski

Office of U.S. Senator Mark Begich


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