Monday, June 13, 2011

Interior Chief Promises Major Push in Congress for New Wilderness Package

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today will ask members of Congress to move forward with legislation to create new wilderness areas and assemble a public lands package that can pass the 112th Congress. Speaking a day after former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt implored the Obama administration to take executive action to protect the environment -- blaming White House "munchkins" for bartering away public lands (E&ENews PM, June 8) -- Salazar said he is ready to get behind numerous wilderness bills that carry strong local support. Salazar spoke last night before the Wilderness Society's annual awards ceremony at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, where top Obama administration officials joined leaders of major environmental groups, including actor and conservationist Edward Norton. "What we will be doing tomorrow is asking the members of Congress to help us move forward with legislation that will be like the 2009 omnibus public lands bill that will identify those areas where we believe there is significant support for the creation of additional wilderness," Salazar said. "We need to move forward and create additional wilderness so that these places that are so precious and yet so limited are places that we protect and preserve for a long time." Salazar cited bills by Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico, Idaho and California that would create roughly half a million acres of new wilderness where motorized and industrial activities would be barred to protect recreational opportunities and pristine landscapes...more

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