Interior Secretary Ken Salazar sent a letter on Wednesday to the Director of the Bureau of Land Management reversing his December 2010 order to make millions of acres of public land eligible for wilderness protection. The December order reversed the Bush administration’s 2003 policy which opened up Western federal land to commercial development.
The memo mentioned that on April 14, 2011 Congress passed an appropriations bill which included a provision prohibiting the use of appropriated funds for the December order.
A blog post on the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) points out that the congressional members who prohibited appropriated money from being used for the December order are “emboldened by the same oil and gas interests that opposed the Wild Lands policy.”
Environmental groups are naturally upset by the memo. William Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society, said, “Without strong and decisive action from the Department of Interior, wilderness will not be given the protection it is due, putting millions of acres of public lands at risk.”
MSNBC reported that a letter was sent to Congress from 50 representatives from six Western states. “Rural counties with wilderness or other protected federal lands experience greater economic and population growth than those without wilderness,” the letter said.
“A decision by the Department of the Interior today to not implement the Bureau of Land Management Wild Lands policy threatens the very infrastructure supporting the nation’s recreation economy,” the Outdoor Industry Association said in a press release.
“Repeal of the No More Wilderness policy should have been the Obama administration’s top priority for public lands when it won the 2008 election,” said the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) in a press release. “Not so. Instead, the administration dithered for nearly two years before reversing the policy — sort of. It issued new, weak guidance — the Wild Lands policy — which was better than nothing. Today, they’ve retreated to nothing.”
Let Salazar know that you want federal public lands in the West to be protected. Sign the petition, Protect Land In the West!
Photo from sandman via flickr