Thursday, March 24, 2011

Utah groups launch challenge to Salazar's 'wild lands' policy

In what may be the nation's first legal challenge to a controversial "wild lands" decision, the Utah Association of Counties and the Uintah County Commission filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The complaint in federal court in Utah challenge's Salazar's Secretarial Order 3310, which they assert upends a settlement agreement reached by then-Gov. Mike Leavitt and the Department of Interior over such land designations. Those decisions of declaring federal lands "wild" because of their characteristics are strictly within the purview of Congress, the suit contends, based on the settlement agreement reached in 2003. "... Secretarial Order 3310 gives unfettered discretion to determine which public lands will be considered as (wilderness study areas)" the suit contends, and subject to an array of restrictions that would impair multiple ways to use the land. Those projects that could be on the chopping block, according to the suit, include development of solar and wind energy resources, including the installation of a wind energy transmission line, and right-of-way access to roads under contention called RS2477. Other county conservation efforts made throughout the state would suffer setbacks due to limited access and control imposed by a wild-lands classification. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, issued a statement late Wednesday, commending the groups that brought the lawsuit...more

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