Monday, March 21, 2011

Salazar renews debate over wild lands

When Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered the Bureau of Land Management to begin looking for wild lands in the West, he set up a new chapter in an old confrontation. Conservation and environmental organizations in Colorado saw an opportunity to take a step toward long-sought goals of having land across the state — most of them in northwest Colorado — and in neighboring Utah set aside for preservation of wilderness characteristics. Others, however, saw the inventory of wild lands as a threat to the energy and other industries. The order by Salazar, a former Colorado senator and onetime head of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, was innocuous, said Kurt Kunkle, wilderness coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition. Salazar’s Secretarial Order 3310 was merely aimed at complying with federal law, the Federal Lands Policy Management Act, which calls for a inventory of such lands. “It’s not a land grab,” Kunkle said. “I’m kind of surprised by all the hubbub around wild-lands policy.” Salazar’s order reinstated long-standing BLM authority that was reversed during the George W. Bush administration, Kunkle said...more

Surely there is a Letter of Opinion from the Solicitor's Office saying BLM has this authority, and I'd like to see it. It looks like they are saying their authority to designate WSAs under Section 603 of FLPMA has expired, but they can designate wild lands under the land use planning provisions. The primary difference appears to be how they will be managed - that the nonimpairment criteria in 603 won't apply.

Anyway, it's time DOI went public with a legal analysis showing where BLM gets this authority, both to designate and to manage, and explaining the current status of the out of court settlement.

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