Thursday, January 06, 2011

Battle Lines Drawn Over New "Wild Lands" Rules

Although some in Congress say the department is overstepping its bounds by giving local BLM offices the power to limit such uses as off-road vehicle access and oil exploration, the conservation community is siding with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Brent Fenty, executive director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, says multiple spots exist in Oregon where land needs to be protected while wilderness designation is being considered. "It takes often a decade, if not decades, to permanently protect a wilderness area, and only Congress can do that. Without these interim protections, the unfortunate thing is that you see these wilderness-quality lands just be chipped away at until nothing's left." The groups point out that Salazar is not changing the policy, but rather is returning to rules that had been in place until 2003. At that time, former Interior Secretary Gayle Norton made a deal with the state of Utah that kept the BLM there from including wilderness potential in its resource management plans...more

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