Deal kills spending on wild lands

This natural bridge and cave in the San Rafael Swell in Utah is typical of areas that could have been considered for recognition as wild lands under an order by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

A provision of the budget deal reached Friday would prohibit funding of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s order calling for an inventory of wild lands in the West.

The provision is part of the agreement reached by House Republicans, Senate Democrats and President Obama to cut spending by $38 billion for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

That agreement, or continuing resolution, is to be voted on later this week in Congress.

The ban on spending to enforce Salazar’s Secretarial Order 3310 was greeted enthusiastically by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the public lands subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Carrying out Salazar’s order would carry out “a policy that would lock up millions of acres of public lands and destroy thousands of jobs,” as well as create de facto wilderness and throw rural communities into uncertainty about the public lands on which they depend, Bishop said.

The wild lands order has drawn fire from members of Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy organization, some of whom sharply questioned the policy when an Interior Department official discussed it in Grand Junction this month.

Eliminating spending on the policy so far this year is a “starting point,” Club 20 Executive Director Bonnie Petersen said, adding the money that was to be used for wild lands could be better used “to help us get back on track in terms of the economy.”

The Bureau of Land Management has yet to begin the inventory of wild lands ordered by Salazar.

Republicans have branded the order as an effort to establish new wilderness.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., supports the effort to inventory wild lands “but he understands that our local communities have concerns and uncertainty about the policy” and hopes officials will address concerns over the remainder of the year, spokeswoman Tara Trujillo said.

Interior Department officials have emphasized that wild lands would be recognized only as part of resource-management plans put together by field offices, and, unlike wilderness, they could allow the use of motorized vehicles and other uses prohibited in wilderness areas.


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