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Department of Interior Documents Illustrate Latest Attempt to Resurrect Controversial Wild Lands Policy

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Bureau of Land Management guidance manuals recently discovered by Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) show that the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) has resurrected the controversial Wild Lands policy killed by Congress in April 2011. Included in the manuals is language directly lifted from Secretarial order 3310 and its supporting documents, known as the DOI's Wild Lands memo, illustrating how BLM employees are to identify and manage lands with wilderness characteristics. Congressman Rob Bishop and Senator Orrin Hatch, along with other Senators and Representatives from the West, today issued a letter to Secretary Ken Salazar outlining concerns and questions about the DOI's efforts to re-establish Wild Lands through the new guidance manuals. [links to manuals found within first two footnotes of summary]


On December 22, 2010 Secretary Salazar and the Bureau of Land Management unveiled a new type of land designation known as Wild Lands, which allowed the DOI to identify and manage de-facto wilderness areas without having to go through the necessary and open congressional process. On April 15, 2011, President Obama codified a Congressional defunding provision prompting DOI Secretary Ken Salazar to table the new Wild Lands initiative, which was widely opposed by a broad range of congressional members and almost all western public lands states.

Despite far reaching opposition to previous attempts to establish de-facto wilderness areas, the DOI is yet again looking for ways to apply strict land management practices to federal lands without officially the lands being identified and designated through regular order. In the new guidance manuals, the DOI has carefully outlined how BLM employees should apply new land management practices that essentially create de-facto wilderness areas. Many of the directives use language taken directly from the controversial and widely opposed Wild Lands initiative and unfairly stack the deck against multiple-use management.

"Once again, the Obama Administration shows its "Washington knows best' mentality," Hatch said. "Even though these proposals have already been overwhelmingly rejected, the Administration is attempting to administratively put these policies in place. This proposal will give Washington bureaucrats more control over the lands in Utah and across the West. It's wrong, and the Interior Department needs to stop trying to keep the public off public lands," said Senator Hatch.

"I am troubled and angered by similarities found between the contents of the hand books and the defunct Wild Lands proposal. This is clearly an effort to establish "Wild Lands 2.0' and abandons all previous commitments Secretary Salazar made to me and many other western Members to work openly and collaboratively on new land management practices. Excerpts within these handbooks clearly depict a thinly veiled effort on behalf of this Administration to further limit access to our nation's public lands. I expect a prompt response from Secretary Salazar and will continue to pursue this issue to ensure that the livelihoods of westerners are protected," said Congressman Bishop.

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