Press Release

Bishop Responds to DOI Memo Calling for a Halt on Wild Lands Designations

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Washington, Jun 1, 2011 | melissa.subbotin@mail.house.gov | comments

The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) today announced that pursuant to the Continuing Resolution (CR) recently passed to fund the government through the summer, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will cease plans to unilaterally designate public lands as “Wild Lands.”  In advance of today’s announcement, DOI Secretary Ken Salazar spoke with House Natural Resources National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) to discuss his intentions and inform him about the DOI’s plans to comply with the policies included in the CR.

In a memo sent to BLM Director Bob Abbey, Secretary Salazar stated that the DOI will no longer proceed with designating de-facto wilderness areas or “Wild Lands” as had previously been proposed in the controversial Secretarial Order #3310. Salazar noted that the Department will instead work with Congress to identify areas that may be appropriate for new public lands designations under the Wilderness Act.

“I appreciate Secretary Salazar taking time to inform me of today’s announcement and am pleased that the DOI recognizes that only Congress has the statutory authority to designate wilderness or such concepts as wild lands,” said Congressman Bishop.  “This is definitely a step in the right direction.”

In the memo Secretary Salazar also stated that Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes will work with the BLM and interested parties to develop recommendations regarding the management of lands with wilderness characteristics.  Additionally, Salazar is directing Deputy Secretary Hayes to solicit input from Members of Congress, state and local officials and federal land managers to identify possible new wilderness areas.  These findings will be presented to Congress in a report. 

“While I am pleased to hear that the DOI intends to uphold the requirements of the Wilderness Act and work with Congress to designate new wilderness areas, I am interested in learning more about their plans to manage lands with so-called ‘wilderness characteristics’,” Bishop added.  “I look forward to working with Secretary Salazar, Deputy Secretary Hayes and Director Abbey to ensure that our public lands are managed in such a way that the livelihoods of public lands users and the environment are protected and preserved for generations to come.” 

In an effort to prevent millions of acres of land from being unilaterally designated as wild lands, Bishop, along with many western Members of Congress, including House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID), have remained vigilant in their efforts to prevent the DOI from proceeding with Secretarial Order #3310. 

“Today’s announcement is welcome news for many communities in the West as well as all those whose livelihoods depend upon access to our nation’s public lands.  I am cautiously optimistic that the DOI intends to have a more cooperative relationship with Congress and that we can work toward more collaborative policies,” Bishop concluded.

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