H.C. “Hotshot” Hendricks ranched in the Hope area for almost his entire life. He has about 3,500 acres where he raises 1,200 head of cattle. The land was in his family since the 1920s, six generations. But with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revising its resource management plan (RMP), Hendricks worried he could lose his way of life. Much of his land could be subject to wilderness characterizations, which Hendricks worried could restrict his acreage from commercial uses such as farming or ranching. The BLM hosted a public meeting, Wednesday at the Village of Hope’s Community Center, to solicit feedback from the public on the RMP’s revision. The Hope community of about 100 residents posed concerns unique to the area due to its reliance on the ranching industry. While attendees at a similar meeting in Carlsbad flocked to booths pertaining to mineral extraction, Hope residents stuck to wilderness characterizations and the impact on grazelands. Jim Stovall, BLM Pecos District Manager, said it was important to hear a variety of responses, from the oilfields to the ranches. “This is part of the field office where we don’t have a lot of mineral activity,” he said. “But they’re a good community. It’s important for us to come out here and hear their concerns.” Stovall said the biggest issue on the minds of the people of Hope appeared to be the wilderness characterizations. Lewis Derrick, a former Eddy County commissioner who owns a small ranch of about 50 head near Hope, said it’s about more than preserving the business of ranching. For most of Hope, he said, it’s a way of life. “(Ranching) is the socioeconomic culture of this community,” Derrick said. “It’s been here for maybe 100 years. It’s a way of life, and a way to make a living. They don’t want it interrupted.” The ranching industry is already burdened by government regulations, a market constantly in flux and a region often suffering from drought, Derrick said. Anxiety is already high in the industry, and he said the RMP revision’s potential outcomes could be a problem for many local ranchers...MORE
In December of 2010, during the Obama administration, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar issued Secretarial Order 3310 which instructed BLM to inventory “lands with wilderness characteristics” on a regular and continuing basis, and further to protect these lands through land use planning. This created a huge controversy among stakeholders and members of congress.
For instance, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) wrote to Salazar saying, “The policies set forth by Secretary Salazar will increase uncertainty for Utah businesses that involve federal lands, and also hinder energy production at a time when developing domestic energy sources is so critical,” and, “This order will result in lost jobs, investment and revenues at a time when we can least afford it." Idaho Governor Butch Otter testified, “I urge Congress to take back its authority and prevent further development and implementation of Secretary Salazar’s Order. This Order exempts stakeholders, threatens the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, weakens the process, discounts state sovereignty, and sends the message to the citizens of Idaho that the federal government will continue to treat the valuable and diverse open spaces of the West not as lands of many uses, but rather as lands of no use and no access for the people who live and work in Idaho and other western states.”
As a result, Congress prohibited the use of federal money to carry out the order and in June of 2011 Salazar revoked Secretarial Order 3310. That, however, has not stopped the BLM from continuing to implement the policy.
In August of 2012 the Congressional Western Caucus wrote to Secretary Salazar:
Today, Senate Western Caucus Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), joined 18 Caucus Members in sending a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressing opposition to the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) efforts to re-establish Wild Lands through new guidance manuals.
Caucus Members Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) discovered Bureau of Land Management guidance manuals that resurrect the controversial Wild Lands policy killed by Congress in April 2011. The manuals include language directly lifted from Secretarial order 3310 and its supporting documents, known as the DOI’s Wild Lands memo, illustrating how BLM employees are to identify and manage lands with wilderness characteristics.
“The Department’s recent actions greatly undermine both your commitment to working with us, your duty to follow both the letter and spirit of the Congressional mandate to withhold funding for the Wildlands policy, and the Obama Administration’s commitment towards being the ‘most transparent’ in history. We urge you to withdraw BLM Manuals 6310 and 6320 immediately, and create a public process for crafting these manuals that are so vital to the management of western public lands,” Caucus members wrote.
And that is where we are today. Those manuals still exist and are being implemented by BLM field staff.
These lands were originally inventoried under Section 603 of FLPMA and found to be unsuitable for wilderness. So how is the BLM getting around that? By lowering the standards. Lands with wilderness characteristics (LWC) do not have to have the mandatory wilderness characteristics, which means that more lands can be designated under this new criteria.
The article says the preferred alternative, which includes the LWCs, will allow things to continue as presently managed. Don't believe that for an instance. Let's say you have an LWC and one of it's wilderness characteristics is Solitude. Then a rancher wants to bring in a CAT to clean out a dirt water tank. Do you believe the BLM will allow a noisy, dust raising CAT into an area they are managing for Solitude? That's just one example, but their are many others where a standard ranching operation will be in conflict with the management restrictions placed on LWCs.
And let's not forget the long-term plan here. The enviros will first get these LWCs administratively designated, and then they will go to Congress and ask they be placed in the Wilderness Preservation System or in some other Congressionally designated restrictive area, such as a National Conservation Area.
What you are seeing here is just step 1.