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On December 23, 2010, whilst most were occupied with getting ready for the holidays, the Obama administration, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to be specific, pulled another fast one hoping we wouldn’t notice.
Salazar issued order 3310, Protecting Wilderness Characteristics on Lands Managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Sounds innocent enough right? After all, the purpose is to:
affirm the protection of the wilderness characteristics of public lands is a high priority for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is an integral component of its multiple use mission. The order provides direction to the BLM regarding its obligation to maintain wilderness resource inventories on a regular and continuous basis for public lands under its jurisdiction
Well, we know anything the Obama administration pulls in the dead of night can’t be any good, and this one isn’t either.
You see, this order actually directed the BLM to designate areas with “wilderness” characteristics as “wildlands” instead. Just a case of semantics one thinks? Hardly. You see, Congress is the only entity which can make this designation, and Salazar clearly circumvented it. According to Doc Hastings (R-WA) Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, what this order would do is impose the most restricted land use policies. Also, lands that are in current use for multiple uses, including recreation, agriculture, ranching, and energy production are in serious danger of being put off limits. Hastings began Congressional hearings this week on this issue. Here is his opening statement, one of his more salient remarks being:
This Secretarial Order will disproportionately impact rural communities, who depend on public lands for their livelihoods. These communities have already been hit hard by onerous existing federal restrictions and by the current economic crisis. They suffer from some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. The â€œwild landsâ€ order threatens to inflict further economic pain. This is just one more example of the onslaught of harmful actions that the Obama Administration is imposing on rural America.”
Hastings questioned BLM Director Bob Abbey, who admitted he has no statutory authority to do this:
Governors and commissioners in the West aren’t taking this too well, extremely fearful oil companies and ranchers will pull out of their states or counties which would impact economic development. You can read some of the comments here, pay particular attention to the statement by Idaho Governor Butch Otter:
â€œI urge Congress to take back its authority and prevent further development and implementation of Secretary Salazarâ€™s Order. This Order exempts stakeholders, threatens the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, weakens the process, discounts state sovereignty, and sends the message to the citizens of Idaho that the federal government will continue to treat the valuable and diverse open spaces of the West not as lands of many uses, but rather as lands of no use and no access for the people who live and work in Idaho and other western states,â€
Under the Wilderness Act of 1964, signed into law by Lyndon Johnson, only Congress has this authority. Salazar’s order places severe limitations on public access and recreation and also would cause much economic hardship and loss of jobs and revenue.
Another power grab folks, flown under the radar.