Last Saturday I was able to join 30 enthusiastic hikers to explore a kind of wilderness that is different than what we often think of as "wilderness" – the subtle, enigmatic hills and valleys of the Adobe Badlands.
In 2003, Gale Norton, then the secretary of the interior, and Michael Leavitt, then the governor of Utah, struck a deal that removed federal protections from about 2.6 million acres of public land in Utah that the Clinton administration had designated as potential wilderness. At the same time, Ms. Norton disavowed her department’s longstanding authority to identify, study and recommend new areas for wilderness protection.
This year Christmas came a little early for all Americans who treasure our public lands, when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar delivered a new policy for protecting wilderness-quality areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The Secretarial Order effectively puts an end to the second class status of wilderness on our public lands that was ushered in by the Bush administration’s “no more wilderness” policy.