Seven years ago, the Bush administration entered into a deal with Utah that removed federal protections from 2.6 million acres of public land that the Clinton administration had designated as potential wilderness.
In a move properly dubbed the “no more wilderness” policy by environmentalists, then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton renounced her department’s long-standing legal authority to identify, study and recommend new areas for wilderness. Norton’s stunning move opened to development vast swaths of the 245 million acres of public land in the West that are managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
The Obama administration moved swiftly to reverse many of its predecessor’s environmentally damaging policies. But the “no more wilderness” policy has remained frustratingly intact, despite pleas from many Democrats in Congress to cast it aside.
Last Thursday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar finally heeded those pleas, issuing an order that reaffirmed his department’s authority to conduct wild land inventories and temporarily protect pristine areas of the West.