Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Secretary Salazar: Lost in the Wilderness

As noted, the Order instructs the agency to develop a Manual and/or Handbook within 60 days that "defines and clarifies" the process for inventory and management of Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC). The Order was conveniently accompanied by a draft Wilderness Inventory Manual. The Department of Interior, in a noteworthy act of efficiency in governance, has ordered its subservient agency, BLM, to prepare "policy guidance" while simultaneously offering a helpful suggestion as to the specific content that said guidance might contain. The draft Manual is available here. The draft Manual gives BLM State Directors direction to fully fund and implement the policy and in addition direction to review decisions made under the new policy. It directs BLM Field Office Managers to maintain a Wilderness inventory on a "continuing basis" regardless of how many past Wilderness inventories have been completed. It also directs each Field Office to update its Wilderness inventory whenever it updates its Land Use Plans (Resource Management Plan, or "RMP"), acquires additional lands or whenever a project has the potential to impair Wilderness characteristics. It directs managers to update the Wilderness inventory when "[t]he public or the BLM identifies wilderness characteristics as an issue during the scoping in a National Environmental Policy Act analysis." The draft Manual defines the Wilderness Inventory Procedures that guide how BLM employees determine if lands posses wilderness characteristics, and what criteria to use in making key decisions in that review. It also includes definitions of key terms as well as sample forms and documentation that will be included in the "permanent documentation file" for each "LWC" or Wild Lands area. The process will result in the identification of "Lands with Wilderness Characteristics" (LWC) that will be incorporated into all land use decision making. The decision to designate them as "Wild Lands," and focus management on Wilderness protection, will be made via the land use planning process. The Order leaves some discretion to the State Director and to Field Offices, who may elect to go with the existing Land Use Plan, assuming it contains a Wilderness inventory and review, or they may opt to conduct a separate, additional review...more

A summary and discussion of the issue from the Blue Ribbon Coalition.

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