Western Republicans decry Obama wilderness policy

WASHINGTON — Republican governors and members of Congress are vowing to fight an Obama administration plan to make millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West eligible for federal wilderness protection.

The GOP officials say the plan would circumvent Congress’s authority and could be used to declare a vast swath of public land off-limits to oil-and-gas drilling. Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana said the policy threatens the economy in rural Western states. He accused the Obama administration of waging a “war on the West.”

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced plans in December to reverse a Bush-era policy and make millions of acres of public land again eligible for wilderness protection. The plan replaces a 2003 policy — dubbed by critics as “No More Wilderness” — that opened lands to commercial development.


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