The Department of Interior took a major step backward on wilderness protection June 1. Bowing to political opposition from right-wing members of Congress, the Administration seems to be moving away from its landmark Wild Lands Policy, put in place just five months ago to help the Bureau of Land Management protect wilderness-quality lands until Congress can act to permanently protect them.
The announcement from the Department of Interior strongly hints that this Administration may no longer make wilderness protection a priority.
The lands at risk are some of the West’s most iconic landscapes, including South Shale Ridge in Colorado, areas within Utah’s red rock canyon country, Otero Mesa in New Mexico, and Adobe Town in Wyoming. Together, millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands are now at added risk of development.
With our open spaces under attack from all sides, now is not the time for the Department of Interior to back down. It is the BLM’s job to manage our public lands, including safeguarding wilderness.
These lands must be protected from oil and gas development, off road vehicle use and other exploitation until they win permanent protection through an Act of Congress.
The Wild Lands Policy put in place clear guidelines for managing wilderness quality lands. Those guidelines appear to have been abandoned — at least for now. Instead, Interior pledged today to gain input on wilderness protection and management from “members of Congress, state and local officials, tribes and federal land managers.” Stunningly, the word “public” is not on the list of stakeholders Interior intends to consult.
These lands belong to the public — you and me — and our involvement in management decisions was sealed years ago with the passage of the Federal Lands Management and Policy Act — FLPMA, still in effect today.
Tell Interior Secretary Salazar that the public must be part of the decision- making for the future of America’s western wilderness.
Please, help us ensure that the Obama Administration hears that such a retreat on wildlands protection will not be tolerated. Send your email now.