Secretary Salazar’s quest for new wilderness protections not over yet

SAWS Members,

There was quite a bit of cheering (and rightfully so) from the pro-access crowd a little over a week ago when Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement that his agencyÔÇÖs newly enacted ÔÇ£Wild LandsÔÇØ policy had come to an end. From the June 1, 2011 article in The Washington Post ÔÇ£Salazar shelves policy to analyze more acres for wilderness protectionÔÇØ;

Facing resistance from congressional Republicans, the Obama administration reversed course Wednesday and jettisoned a policy aimed at evaluating whether millions of acres in the West would qualify for wilderness protection

ÔÇ£Environmentalists criticized the move, although they said they held out hope the administration would move ahead with its wilderness inventory and push for greater protections once the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and the legislative rider is no longer in effect.ÔÇØ

Former DOI Secretary Bruce Babbitt chimed in on the subject June 8, 2011, during his speech to the National Press Club with his suggestion that President Obama should just by-pass Congress, as former President Bill Clinton did when Babbitt pushed the idea when he was acting DOI Secretary, by using the Antiquities Act;

ÔÇ£Babbitt attacked the White House for failing to stand up to what he warned is an all-out congressional assault on public lands and urged the Obama administration to use its executive powers to protect at-risk landscapes.

ÔÇ£Babbitt also blasted an April budget resolution to restrict funding for the Bureau of Land Management’s “wild lands” order to protect roadless areas as “a political calculation among the munchkins in the White House.”

“By voicing his willingness to use the Antiquities Act as an alternative to wilderness designation, the president can bring Congress to the table to work out conservation measures acceptable to reasonable stakeholders,” he said. Clinton used the act to bring about congressional action to protect places such as Steens Mountain in Oregon, the Colorado Canyons, the San Jacinto Mountains and Otay Mountain in California and Las Cienegas in Arizona, among others, Babbitt said.ÔÇØ

Well my friends, it is now time for round two from Secretary Salazar in his quest to have millions more acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed lands designated as wilderness.

In a letter from Secretary Salazar submitted to Congress Friday June 10, 2011, he states among other things;

As an integral part of our effort to conserve Americas lands and wildlife for future generations, I will work with Members of Congress to identify public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management for permanent Wilderness protection under the Wilderness Act

ÔÇ£The Department of the Interior will, by October 15, 2011, submit to Congress a list of ÔÇ£crown jewelÔÇØ areas that we believe are ready for immediate Wilderness designation by Congress.┬á This list will include some areas that would be protected by bills that are currently pending before Congress and that have strong local, state, tribal, and congressional support.┬á It may also include some areas that are not currently being considered for protection, but that the Department of the Interior believes have widespread support and are worthy of Wilderness designation.ÔÇØ

This new push for wilderness protection on BLM managed lands cannot be good for those that support multiple-use of our public lands. But organizations such as The Wilderness Society (Friends of Frontier Airlines), Winter Wildlands Alliance, and other pro-wilderness anti-access organizations are more than pleased.

 As stated in a June 10, 2011 article in the New York Times;

ÔÇ£Salazar spoke last night before the Wilderness Society’s annual awards ceremony at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, where top Obama administration officials joined leaders of major environmental groups, including actor and conservationist Edward Norton.

┬á“What we will be doing tomorrow is asking the members of Congress to help us move forward with legislation that will be like the 2009 omnibus public lands bill that will identify those areas where we believe there is significant support for the creation of additional wilderness,” Salazar said. “We need to move forward and create additional wilderness so that these places that are so precious and yet so limited are places that we protect and preserve for a long time.”

┬áÔÇ£Salazar cited bills by Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico, Idaho and California that would create roughly half a million acres of new wilderness where motorized and industrial activities would be barred to protect recreational opportunities and pristine landscapes.ÔÇØ

┬á“There are a whole host of other bills out there,” Salazar said. “Our hope is to be able to assemble those pieces of legislation where we believe we will have the political clout to be able to get them through.”

Once again it is time for those that support multiple-use access to our public lands, as is required by law, to roll up their sleeves and get involved in round two of this particular fight. If you are not willing to get involved and fight for your access, then you might as well throw in the towel and the anti-access opposition can be declared the ultimate winner.

Dave Hurwitz
Snowmobile Alliance of Western States