Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Western Caucus Outraged At Interior Department

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Senate Western Caucus Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) and House Western Caucus Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) along with members of the Joint Congressional Western Caucus have sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar expressing outrage over the Department of Interior’s (DOI) sweeping new wilderness policy that was recently issued without input from Congress or local officials.  The Members warn that the new policy, Secretarial Order 3310, has the potential to harm western economies and rural communities by limiting multiple use access to public lands. 

The Members wrote:

“This new ‘wild lands’ policy introduces more uncertainty and will arbitrarily delay the reasonable use and development of our public lands.  In order to prevent a collapse of several rural economies in the West and forestall continued uncertainty and job loss in western public land states, we urge you to withdraw Secretarial Order 3310 and work with Congress to devise balanced policies for our public lands.”

Excerpts of the letter follows:

“The decision was announced the day after Congress adjourned and the day before Christmas Eve.  Choosing to announce such a significant decision on such a date raises the question whether the intent was to escape both congressional and public scrutiny. 

“As best we can tell, Congress was left in the dark regarding any process the DOI may have undertaken in the preparation of this decision.  We are also unaware of any effort to reach out to Members until the day the announcement was made. 

“This order gives the BLM immediate authority to ‘designate appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its jurisdiction as ‘Wild Lands’ and to manage them to protect their wilderness values.’  We believe this order represents a considerable departure from the method for designating lands as ‘Wilderness Areas’ specified in the Wilderness Act of 1964. 

“As you know, the Wilderness Act gives the U.S. Congress — and only the U.S. Congress — the power to designate public lands as protected Wilderness Areas.’  Secretarial Order 3310 appears to be an underhanded attempt by DOI to circumvent Congress and the federal rulemaking process by designating potentially millions of acres of publicly owned lands in western states as de facto wilderness under a new, loosely defined ‘wild lands’ category.

“By singling out wilderness characteristics, and ignoring other resources, Secretarial Order No. 3310 appears to be intentionally stacking the deck against multiple-use management.

“We believe public lands should be managed in a way that provides the greatest benefit to the public.  The multiple-use philosophy — which encourages the environmentally responsible use of public lands for conservation, recreation, and economic purposes — is the best way to accomplish that goal.  Multiple-use has been the bedrock for many rural western economies for decades.

“Conversely, an ambiguous ‘wild lands’ designation based on ‘wilderness characteristics’ is not a good management approach.  Indeed, we are convinced that proceeding with this order will only serve to create greater uncertainty, invite litigation, and create further division among the various public land stakeholders, environmental groups, and local communities.” 

 Source: Senate Western Caucus

Posted by Russell Nemetz

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