Those who saw the March 1 hearing on Interior Secretary Salazar’s "Wild Lands" order may not have learned much about wilderness preservation's impact on Western jobs -- as the hearing’s title suggested -- but they did, at least, witness a brilliant display of congressional snark. "The reality is," said Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) addressing his state’s Governor Gary Herbert, "Utah has 10 percent private property, so congratulations for being governor over 10 percent of Utah. On the rest, you’re the regional administrator for Mr. Abbey."
Bishop, like Herbert, was lamenting the federal government's vast landholdings and jurisdiction over the state’s natural resources; the Bureau of Land Management, under Bob Abbey's directorship, manages roughly two-thirds of Utah. One-fifth of Utah's BLM land is currently permitted for energy development and extraction, while less than 2 percent is protected wilderness. But Salazar’s recent "Wild Lands" order makes it a BLM priority to protect "lands with wilderness characteristics” when making decisions that could change the lands’ use.