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Utah Congressional Delegation Supports Locally Driven Wilderness Approach


Location: Washington, DC

Today, members of the Utah Congressional delegation sent a letter to Secretary Ken Salazar expressing their unified opposition to the Department of Interior's latest attempt to include Utah lands in a comprehensive wilderness designation report to Congress.

The letter was sent in response to Secretary Salazar's June 10, 2011 letter to each member of the Utah delegation. In his letter, the Secretary asked the delegation to identify "BLM-managed public lands where there is strong support in the local community and among elected officials for permanent protection, and that you believe are ready for designation as Wilderness by this Congress." According to the letter, identified lands would be included in an October 15, 2011 report to Congress. A similar letter was sent on June 19, 2011 by Utah BLM State Director Juan Palma to county leaders throughout the state of Utah.

To date, twenty-two counties, representing 99% of BLM land in Utah, have replied to Director Palma expressing their unified desire to not be included in the Department's final report. Copies of these letters were sent to the Utah Congressional delegation.

In response to the overwhelming opposition from locally elected county officials, the Utah delegation sent the attached letter to reaffirm the county's stated opposition to the "Bipartisan Wilderness Agenda".

"I do not oppose wilderness," said Congressman Chaffetz. "I support a collaborative, locally driven process of determining land-use designations. The Secretary's recent outreach was appreciated, but his approach was not embraced by Utahns. Utah land should not be included in the Department's report. A process for resolving land-use issues is already underway in the state. I support this county-by-county process and will continue to work with all stakeholders, including Secretary Salazar when appropriate, on crafting solutions."

"Utah is a beautiful place with some areas that truly should be protected," said Senator Hatch. "But there are also places that don't merit wilderness designation. It is the responsibility of Congress to determine what those areas are. I have been working for years with state and county leaders to identify areas to protect and areas that can be used for other things like ATV recreation and oil and gas development. We don't need this administration making any more recommendations on how to do our job. We are doing fine."

"The message from Utah's federal, state, and local officials could not be clearer," said Senator Lee. "We are not interested in the federal government mandating how Utahns can and cannot use their land. The extent to which the land should be managed should be determined by the citizens of Utah, not by bureaucrats in Washington."

"In order to ensure that the interests and livelihoods of all residents and stakeholders are considered and protected, new land use designations such as wilderness should be initiated at the local level and not out of pressure from Washington. While I appreciate Salazar's willingness to abandon the terrible Wild Lands proposal, we're still going to insist that local communities be fully supportive of wilderness designations. Wilderness is attainable but it also has to be considered with other factors and uses of the land in mind. That consideration and coordination is best done at the local level with those who are impacted most. I join with others in having serious concerns with any efforts to identify new wilderness areas out of executive directive rather than local interest," said Congressman Bishop, who serves as Chairman of the House Natural Resources subcommittee that oversees public lands.

"I support wilderness proposals that are the result of a grassroots, stakeholder-driven process, which takes time and effort by many participants. In Utah, several such efforts are underway but they cannot be rushed. My experience with the Washington County lands bill has shown me that putting an artificial deadline on the process, such as the one proposed by the Department of Interior, is not conducive to a successful outcome. Utah will be ready when the stakeholders reach consensus," Congressman Matheson said

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