Thursday, September 08, 2011

BLM Mulling More Than a Dozen 'Crown Jewels' for Wilderness Designation

The Interior Department is considering more than a dozen areas for Congress to designate as wilderness, the highest level of protection for public lands, according to interviews with several state Bureau of Land Management offices. But the total number and size of those wilderness areas will likely not be made public until Interior Secretary Ken Salazar submits a final report to Congress in mid-October, an agency spokeswoman said. Among the areas considered ripe for new protections are more than 10,000 acres of wilderness study areas (WSA) near Helena, Mont., according to a BLM spokeswoman in the state. The Sheep Creek and Sleeping Giant WSAs garnered the support of commissioners in Lewis and Clark County, said spokeswoman Mel Lloyd. The BLM's Nevada office has apparently forwarded conservationists' recommendations for new wilderness in the Gold Butte, Pine Forest and other areas to the national office, according to a letter this week from state Director Amy Lueders to Nada Culver of the Wilderness Society. The agency's Colorado office, citing the support of local elected officials, forwarded recommendations for six WSAs, including Castle Peak, Bull Gulch, Browns Canyon, Hack Lake, Eagle Mountain and McKenna Peak, a spokesman in Denver said. "The local input kind of jibed with the BLM's current management of these areas as WSA's," said spokesman Steven Hall. In addition, BLM is also mulling "a few" areas in New Mexico for new wilderness designations, according to a spokesman in Santa Fe. A spokeswoman for BLM in Sacramento said the California office also recommended two or three areas that carry broad local support for congressional action, but their location and size was not disclosed. Two recommendations were forwarded by the Arizona office, said Ken Mahoney, a wilderness specialist for BLM...more

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