Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another wilderness battle for Idaho?

...“This seems to elevate the authority to inventory wilderness above other uses,” said Boise attorney Bill Myers, an Interior Department solicitor when Norton’s settlement was reached. Myers first raised the procedural questions that might lead to a legal challenge — questions Otter and others have since started asking. While there is public process before the policy is finalized — the agency is to develop a handbook for carrying out the new policy after 60 days of public comments — Myers questions whether that complies with the Administrative Procedures Act or the National Environmental Policy Act. “As long as it’s completely rolled out internally instead of a public process there’s going to be a set of the public that’s not going to agree,” Myers said. Failure to withdraw the new policy under those circumstances “cannot engender the necessary support and inevitably will lead to endless lawsuits,” Otter said. Rep Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, new chair of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, was quick to criticize Salazar, who must come before Simpson for funding. The two met this week along with BLM Director Bob Abbey. “I value the secretary of Interior’s efforts to address the land management challenges facing the BLM and to provide consistency to the public process, but I am concerned that the agency is taking authority that belongs to Congress,” said Simpson. “I know this deeply concerns other members besides me.”...more

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