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Public Statements

44 House Members Call on President to Enforce Law to Protect Wild Lands

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), and Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) were yesterday joined by 40 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama requesting that he enforce the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and preserve our nation's pristine wild and public lands. The recently passed long term continuing resolution, H.R. 1473, included a policy rider which defunded enforcement Secretarial Order 3310, the administration's wild lands policy, for the remainder of the fiscal year.

"Without the wild lands policy, many of our nation's pristine wild and public lands remain at risk. The policy is popular with the millions of Americans who are committed to the preservation of our wilderness heritage and we strongly support it," urged the 44 House members. "Despite the passage of H.R. 1473, the Bureau of Land Management is still legally obligated under FLPMA to manage the wilderness resource as one of several multiple uses."

While H.R. 1473 defunded the Secretarial Order 3310, the underlying FLPMA statute still requires the administration to put forth rules to protect wilderness resources. Late last year, the Obama Administration Issued Secretarial Order 3310, overturning the legally flawed decision by former Interior Secretary Gail Norton that barred the BLM from identifying and protecting BLM lands possessing wilderness characteristics as "wilderness study areas." The so-called "Norton Policy" was an abdication of the Department's legal obligations under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), as well as other statutes, to inventory and manage public lands with wilderness characteristics. In addition, it was an unprecedented departure from a long history of agency management of wild lands which preserved Congress' ability to designate lands as wilderness.

The full text of the letter and a list of signatories are below.

May 24, 2011

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States of America

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, DC DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are extremely disappointed that H.R. 1473, the long-term continuing resolution for fiscal year 2011, prohibits the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from implementing Secretarial Order 3310, also known as the "wild lands policy," for the remainder of the fiscal year. Without the wild lands policy, many of our nation's pristine wild and public lands remain at risk. The policy is popular with the millions of Americans who are committed to the preservation of our wilderness heritage and we strongly support it.

We applauded the Department of Interior for overturning the legally flawed decision by former Secretary Gail Norton that barred the BLM from identifying and protecting BLM lands possessing wilderness characteristics as "wilderness study areas." The so-called "Norton Policy" was an abdication of the Department's legal obligations under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), as well as other statutes, to inventory and manage public lands with wilderness characteristics. In addition, it was an unprecedented departure from a long history of agency management of wild lands which preserved Congress' ability to designate lands as wilderness.

The Interior Department's 2010 wild lands policy is a reasonable, well-grounded approach that would remedy the many problems caused by the Norton Policy, and it is entirely consistent with governing federal law and long-standing administrative practice. It would facilitate public participation, the restoration of balance to our public lands management policies and protect cherished natural icons from development.

However, despite the passage of H.R. 1473, the BLM is still legally obligated under FLPMA to manage the wilderness resource as one of several multiple uses. As such, we strongly urge you to ensure that the Department and the BLM follow these requirements. Additionally, we hope that your administration will firmly oppose any future appropriations riders or bills that would restrict the Interior Department's ability to identify and protect public lands with wilderness characteristics.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Rep. Maurice Hinchey

Rep. Gerald Connolly

Rep. Martin Heinrich

Rep. Diana DeGette

Rep. Janice Schakowsky

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Rep. Jared Polis

Rep. Raul Grijalva

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan

Rep. John Olver

Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Donna Christensen

Rep. Hank Johnson

Rep. Charles Rangel

Rep. Steve Cohen

Rep. Jerrold Nadler

Rep. Lois Capps

Rep. Rush Holt

Rep. Laura Richardson

Rep. Bettey McCollum

Rep. Jackie Speier

Rep. Anna Eshoo

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Rep. Mazie Hirono

Rep. Henry Waxman

Rep. Jose Serrano

Rep. Michael Honda

Rep. Zoe Lofgren

Rep. Howard Berman

Rep. Sam Farr

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver

Rep. Corrine Brown

Rep. Chris Van Hollen

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. Mike Quigley

Rep. Lloyd Doggett

Rep. George Miller

Rep. Ed Perlmutter

Rep. Bill Pascrell

Rep. Jay Inslee

Rep. Paul Tonko

Rep. Carolyn Maloney

Rep. David Price


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