A victim of the ongoing federal budget battle, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is backing off of last December’s Wild Lands Order, which would have compelled the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to make millions of acres of federal land eligible for wilderness protection.The Associated Press is reporting Salazar sent a memo to BLM officials ordering them to work with members of Congress to develop management recommendations for undeveloped BLM land. “A budget deal approved by Congress prevented the Interior Department from spending money to implement the wilderness policy,” AP reported today.
Republicans had called Salazar’s Wild Lands Order a massive federal land grab that would shut down much of the West to domestic energy production at a time when it’s most needed. Some had countered with legislation of their own to block the Obama administration policy.
Salazar, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Colorado, had made a case he was merely fulfilling a public mandate by issuing the order in the first place.
“Americans love the wild places where they hunt, fish, hike, and get away from it all, and they expect these lands to be protected wisely on their behalf,” Salazar said in a release at the time of the order. “This policy ensures that the lands of the American public are protected for current and future generations to come.”
BLM Director Bob Abbey took that obligation a step further.
“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,” Abbey said.
Seventy-three elected officials in Colorado sent a letter of support for the policy to Obama administration officials. However, the four Republican members of Colorado’s congressional delegation bitterly opposed the policy.