Salazar Restores BLM Protections for Wild Lands

On December 23, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a secretarial order that restores the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's authority to designate appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its jurisdiction as "Wild Lands" and to manage them to protect their wilderness values.

Secretarial Order 3310 restores wilderness protections lost during the Bush administration.


Utah's High Uintas Wilderness Area (Photo: A MacLeay)

In 2003, the so-called "No More Wilderness" policy was passed. The deal, between then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton and then-Utah Governor Michael Leavitt, prevented the BLM from recommending new areas for wilderness protection.

The controversial policy allowed oil and gas drilling, mining, and other commercial uses on land under consideration as wilderness areas. In Utah it removed protections on 2.6 million acres of public land.

Under the new secretarial order, the BLM can designate and modify Wild Lands through its existing land management planning process and a public input process. Wild Lands differ from Wilderness Areas, which can only be designated by Congress and cannot be modified except by legislation.

They also differ from Wilderness Study Areas, which typically are managed by BLM to protect wilderness characteristics until Congress determines whether to permanently protect them as Wilderness Areas or modify their management.

Wild Lands will be designated based on the input of public and local communities and through BLM's existing land management planning process. The areas will be managed under new BLM policy guidance and through protective measures identified in a land use plan as part of a public process.

"The new Wild Lands policy affirms the BLM's authorities under the law — and our responsibility to the American people — to protect the wilderness characteristics of the lands we oversee as part of our multiple use mission," said BLM Director Bob Abbey in a Department of the Interior press release.

Secretarial Order 3310 also directs the BLM to maintain a current inventory of public lands with wilderness characteristics.

The BLM has six months to come up with new criteria to decide which lands should receive federal wilderness designation.

The policy does not affect lands already designated as Wilderness.

BLM manages 245 million acres, more land than any other federal agency. Of those, 8.6 million acres are Wilderness Areas.

 

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Comments

Alicia
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January 3, 2011 at 12:29 p.m. (EST)

On this topic, Black Diamond CEO, president, and co-founder Peter Metcalf has an opinion piece in The Salt Lake Tribune: "The wilderness debate is about jobs."

 

"The wilderness debate is about jobs" by Peter Metcalf

On December 23, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued a bold announcement establishing new Bureau of Land Management guidance for identifying public lands with “wilderness characteristics,” a great step forward for all Americans and America’s outdoor recreation economy.

Secretary Salazar’s announcement properly places preservation and wise stewardship of outdoor recreation venues on equal footing with other uses of public lands. These wilderness-quality lands provide the backdrop for a uniquely American experience allowing visitors to learn about important cultural and natural resources, and access to unparalleled opportunities for active recreation, hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, adventure and solitude.

Read full opinion piece>>

Seth Levy (Seth)
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January 3, 2011 at 1:36 p.m. (EST)

Thanks for sharing this Alicia.  The BLM manages more than 1/10th the surface area of America, which is more than the Park Service, Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service combined!  This change in policy has the potential to benefit everyone who likes to go outside in America, and all those whose jobs depend on outdoor recreation.  As a whole, the community of outdoor recreation enthusiasts has the potential to influence land management in America for the better, an opportunity we should all embrace, and a responsibility we should all appreciate.

DrReaper
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January 3, 2011 at 8:53 p.m. (EST)

I don't trust the BLM as far as I can throw them. I am pretty skeptical of everything.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kC2fNj6LqVQ

denis daly
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January 3, 2011 at 10:05 p.m. (EST)

I look at this like, it has a two edge sword. I agree the ecosystems and natural grass lands and forested area's need to be protected 110%.

!. My issue stems from the word "Bureau" there was a Bureau who started with so called good intentions that displaced millions of Native habitants, Bureau of Indian Affairs.

2. How many Ranchers and Ranch's are presently grazeing on the grass lands?  What impact does that have on the ecology presently and how much money is the BLM recieving?

3. How does this affect the Outdoor recreationist in a postive note? Are these lands going to be new camping and hiking area's?

4. The obvious was stated for the Outdoor Recreational industry. This is a money maker for them. So how is it a money maker for them as well?

5. Why do we have a BLM in the first place with the existance of the Department of Interior and Department of forestry. Isn't this just a little overkill maybe?

Believe me when I say this is "exciteing" it is. But at the same time. It makes you wonder what has led to this and how the issue's in the past are going to be handled and how new issue's are. Thats just my thoughts.....

whomeworry
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January 4, 2011 at 5:01 a.m. (EST)

I don't trust the BLM as far as I can throw them. I am pretty skeptical of everything.

Out of curiosity:

Who do you think should be the stewards of out national resources, and what would make such entity immune from the foibles of bureaucracy and politics?

Ed

whomeworry
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January 4, 2011 at 8:15 a.m. (EST)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kC2fNj6LqVQ

This may be a ASPCA or PETA issue, but since mustangs are an introduced species, this is hardly a wilderness mismanagement issue.  The author of the above tube makes no mention of the various programs in place that serve as an alternative to culling the herds.  Other than letting the horses overrun the regions they roam, what would you do?  This link provides a summary of the BLM's side of this issue.

Ed

Seth Levy (Seth)
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January 4, 2011 at 4:49 p.m. (EST)

Dennis - when you ask "5. Why do we have a BLM in the first place with the existance of the Department of Interior and Department of forestry. Isn't this just a little overkill maybe?"

The answer is - the agency was created in the 1930's out of two now-defunct bureaus - the "General Land Office" and the "Grazing Service."  Some conservation-oriented folks will tell you that their present policies reflects the heritage!

Presently, agencies within the Department of Interior (BLM, NPS, NFWS, BOR) and agencies within the Department of Agriculture (USDA FS) manages most of the federal lands people like us hike, camp, ski and climb.  Some folks argue that different agencies and departments managing public lands creates a mess, some argue that different lands need different agencies to manage them.

Sometimes I fancy that lands managed by different agencies has different "feeling."

DrReaper
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January 4, 2011 at 5:48 p.m. (EST)

Hi Whomeworrie,

The States governments should manage their state lands. Sure your going to have problems with pretty much any government body. The old Sun-tzu saying goes "keep your friends close and your enemies even closer" well state governments are closer then federal governments. 

My solution to the horse problem is to ride a horse to work after the looming economic crash:)

Also I would like to toss in that the BLM isn't making money at all. They get subsidy's from the federal government. So in reality they end up being paid for by bonds and the increasing national debt.

denis daly
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January 4, 2011 at 5:52 p.m. (EST)

Seth Thanks- I  was up late working on a project and read the article and was just putting down what came to mind in questions I had. I see that the BLM actually falls under them. I see the concern your saying with the different "idea's" or "feelings" the different agencies would have on the use of the land. I have to agree they all have different idea's on the use and it would create a giant mess.But another question I  have is how is this a positive for the Outdoor Recreationist in the sense that a for profit would charge fee's for service's used in that area if they won a bid? prime example would be Yellow Stone . The use of the lodges and cabins were paid for by tax money. Yet the operator or custodian co charges and makes capital after paying a contract fee. The manufactures win because we the consumer purchase more gear. Then add how many US manufacturers staffs are 3/4 over sea's. I just have a hard time wrapping my head around where those numbers come from. I just feel quit possibly that the lands not distorted now would become like the fiasco Yellow Stone has become today. In the Sense that profit is put over the true protection of those native landscapes. Thats my true concern. I appreciate you explaining the BLM situation to me and who they fall under and their concerns as well.

Erich
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January 22, 2011 at 1:08 p.m. (EST)

Ed, thanks for posting BLM's side of the WIld Horse issue. Being a journalist, and having worked in Northern Nevada, I have seen first hand how the BLM operates. While I applaud Salazar's move, the BLM has issues of disconnect between their stated purposes, and how they operate in the field. The Wild Horse issue being just one aspect of this. Horses are being rounded up and either sent to holding facilities at great cost to taxpayers, or to slaughter(illegally) to Canada and Mexico. In Norther Nevada in particular, the issue is complex, in that many BLM field operators are related in some way to the established ranching companies. I understand the cattlemen's desire to continue making a living and stay on land that has often been in their families for generations. However, the recent entrance of the resource industry has fueled the fire for the ranchers. A proposed pipeline across Northern Nevada, has allied the resource industry with the ranchers. Add to that and the new head of the BLM is a former officer of BP, and you have a similar situation to the Forest Service. As Gifford Pinchot once stated, "...highest and best use...". Since wild horses don't provide any economic benefit, and in fact cost tax dollars, the BLM feels justified in supporting uses that do. As witness to this, last year's proposal to allow drilling next to National Parks and National Monuments. I, for one, don't want to be hiking in Arches NM and see an oil rig in the background. However, that may come to pass.

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