Opinion: GOP off the deep on BLM wilderness rules


The new Republican House leadership showed once again how they will turn almost every environmental issue into an ideological battleground, using a House committee hearing as a forum for attacking Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s move to consider wilderness protection for some western BLM lands. Click here to read all the written testimony for the hearing.

Instead of a rational land management policy based on public input and the best available science, the GOP’s usual suspects, including Idaho’s C.L “Butch” Otter, Utah Governor Gary R. Hebert and House Natural Resource Committee Chairman Doc Hastings this week turned the issue into a question of local versus federal control at a committee hearing, conveniently forgetting that Salazar was merely restoring a long-standing policy that was abolished under the Bush administration.
I’ll give the Republicans some credit for perseverance — they seem to think that, by repeating their mantras over and over again, they will somehow manage to convince the public that they have a legitimate gripe. But fortunately, the American public is savvy enough to understand what’s really going on.

The Republican leadership is beholden to special interests, as it always has been, and in the case of BLM policy, there’s a lot of oil industry lobbying money in play. The stated fear is that Obama and Salazar want to “lock up” public lands, but they are being disingenuous and misleading. These are public federal lands, not the backyard playground of western rural communities, and they’re best managed according to the reasoned plan that Salazar proposed. That includes identifying tracts that have wilderness qualities, then soliciting input from all stakeholders, local and national, before making a decision.