Tipton finds fault with Salazar’s wilderness push

Congressman-elect Scott Tipton is criticizing a wilderness initiative by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, saying it usurps the powers of Congress.

Salazar on Thursday said he was ordering the Bureau of Land Management to undertake a new program to identify and protect lands with wilderness characteristics.

Salazar ordered a different approach from what the agency has taken in the past, when it proposed wilderness study areas that are protected as wilderness pending a congressional decision on whether to designate them as such.

The agency suspended further identification of such areas in 2003 under a settlement between former Interior Secretary Gale Norton and parties including the state of Utah.

Salazar’s order provides for the BLM instead to use a public planning process to designate an area as “wild land” that would be protected as wilderness unless another public process results in its modification.

Tipton, R-Cortez, said in a news release that Salazar’s move lets the BLM create de facto wilderness without the approval of Congress or states.

“Secretary Salazar’s decision to change the policy and usurp Congress’ role in public land management is a clear indication that promises of openness and transparency were mere talking points,” Tipton said.

“The Constitution gives exclusive control of the public lands to Congress.”

Tipton defeated Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. John Salazar, Ken Salazar’s brother, in November’s election. Tipton will serve on the House Natural Resources Committee, which he said is sure to address the wilderness action.

He said he also will join the Congressional Western Caucus.

That conservative group of congressional representatives has taken issue with the wilderness directive. Tipton and the caucus say it will hurt Western economies.

Salazar said Thursday that oil and gas development will continue to occur on BLM lands, but protecting wild areas will support the outdoor recreation industry.

He said the approach doesn’t lock up lands from future development because designation of an area as wild land can be modified later.


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