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.
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.
For more info, read: