On December 23, 2010, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued Secretarial Order #3310, which directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to identify and consider protecting lands harboring “wilderness characteristics” within the hundreds of millions of acres of public lands that it manages. The legal authority for this policy is found in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the BLM’s “organic statute”. Among other things Congress declared in FLPMA that it is the policy of the United States that, “…the public lands be managed in a manner that, where appropriate, will preserve and protect certain public lands in their natural condition…” (Sec. 102(a)(8))
What‟s new about the policy? The new policy is simply a statement of how the BLM is to go about fulfilling its existing statutory obligations to “protect certain public lands in their natural condition,” to inventory the resources of the public lands, and to make decisions about which uses are appropriate on which lands. Since FLPMA was enacted and up until 2003, every Administration – Republican and Democratic – honored the basic premise that the BLM had a legal responsibility to both identify lands harboring wilderness characteristics and protect their wilderness values.
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