Salazar Wild Lands Policy Would be Postponed in Budget Compromise

The Congressional compromise budget proposed late Friday, April 8 to fund the federal government for the rest of this fiscal year (ending September 30, 2011) would not fund the wild lands policy that had been announced by Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in December 2010. In Colorado, the BLM manages 8.3 million acres of federal public lands.  Of this land, approximately 4.6 million acres are leased for oil and gas exploration and development (as of FY 2010). BLM conducts auctions quarterly for oil and gas leasing.

In CWF’s view, a balance among multiple uses of BLM lands is essential. Outdoor recreation is big business in Colorado amounting to $10 billion annually. Of that amount more than $3 billion is attributable to wildlife related recreation: wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing. Wildlife habitat is becoming increasingly fragmented and maintaining wild land characteristics as a criterion in balance with the many other multiple uses is very important for wildlife and outdoor recreation.

Background: On February 25, 2011 the BLM announced guidance to its field managers for managing its federal public lands that have wild lands characteristics, as part of its multiple use mission. DOI Secretary Ken Salazar’s Secretarial Order of December 23 and this guidance recognize that wildlife related and other outdoor recreation are an important dimension of the BLM’s mission of multiple uses.

The press release stated:The guidance will ensure public lands with wilderness characteristics are inventoried, described, and managed in accordance with Secretarial Order 3310 issued by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in December. Since 2003, when its wilderness inventory handbook was revoked as a result of a controversial out-of-court settlement between then-Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, the State of Utah, and other parties, BLM has lacked comprehensive, long-term guidance on how to identify and manage lands with wilderness characteristics. “The Wild Lands policy describes the open process for taking a good look at these lands and hearing from the public, States, local officials, and Tribes on how they should be used to meet our multiple-use mission responsibilities,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “This is a common sense approach that also makes sound economic sense. Last year, hunting, fishing, and other recreational uses of BLM lands generated $7.4 billion for local economies throughout the West.  Secretarial Order 3310 directs the BLM to consider, as part of its existing land-use planning process – which includes substantial public input – whether to designate appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its jurisdiction as ‘Wild Lands’ and to manage them to protect their wilderness values.  The Secretarial Order restores balance to the management of the Nation’s public lands and provides national guidance to the BLM on how to meet its obligations to identify and consider lands with wilderness characteristics. The Order requires the BLM to consider all of the resources on public lands – including wilderness characteristics – in its land-use planning process.  Lands with wilderness characteristics provide outstanding recreational opportunities, as well as cultural, scientific, historical, and ecological resources.  It’s important to know that this Order doesn’t change the management of a single acre of public land, but simply broadens the management tools available through the public land-use planning process,” Abbey said.