Tuesday, April 12, 2011

'Wild lands' demise: what they're saying

Western Republicans seem pleased with the fact that the budget deal reached over the weekend apparently blocks funding for the Obama administration's "Wild Lands" initiative, which many had considered detrimental to public lands ranchers and rural communities.

The Congressional Western Caucus issued this press release today:

Washington, D.C. – Today, Western Caucus Chairman Stevan Pearce (R-NM) released the following statement regarding language included in H.R. 1473, the final budget bill for fiscal year 2011, which will prohibit the Department of the Interior from using taxpayer money to fund the controversial Wild Lands initiative:

“The ‘Wild Lands’ proposal issued by Secretary Salazar last December was another attempt by the Obama Administration to circumvent congressional authority in the Administration’s ‘War on Western Jobs.’ It would have had tremendous negative impacts on job creation, energy production and recreation throughout the West and its defunding is a victory for all western states.

“On behalf of the Congressional Western Caucus, I would like to thank Speaker Boehner for ensuring this key provision was included in the final negotiated bill. Speaker Boehner and Republican leadership understand that there is a ‘War on Western Jobs’ and we will continue to work with them to stop these types of job-killing initiatives while putting forward legislation to bring jobs back to the West.

“Additionally, Congressional Western Caucus members Chairmen Mike Simpson and Rob Bishop should be applauded for their leadership on the ‘Wild Lands’ issue.

"As Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, Mike Simpson played a key role in defunding this dangerous initiative. Congressman Simpson and the House Appropriations Committee deserve the gratitude of all westerner job creators for leading the effort to prevent taxpayer funding of this job killing initiative.

“Chairman Rob Bishop must also be recognized for his tireless work in exposing Secretary Salazar’s effort to circumvent congressional authority to create de facto wilderness areas. As Chairman of the Public Lands Subcommittee, Rob Bishop was one of the earliest and most vocal critics of Secretarial Order 3310 and his vigorous oversight efforts should be applauded.”

The Wild Lands policy, established by Secretarial Order 3310, asserts that the Bureau of Land Management has the authority to “designate appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its jurisdiction as ‘Wild Lands’ and to manage them to protect their wilderness value.” The Wilderness Act of 1964 gives Congress the sole authority to designate public lands as Wilderness areas.

The Wilderness designation is the most restrictive land use policy that can be taken as it places severe limitations on public access to public lands. In addition to the impacts on jobs and the economy, many forms of popular recreation and access could be prohibited.

Section 1769 of the FY2011 CR states:

“none of the funds made available by this division or any other Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce Secretarial Order No. 3310 issued by the Secretary of the Interior on December 22, 2010.”

Separately, Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee that oversees Public Lands, stated:

“Implementation of the Secretarial Order would take hard-earned taxpayer dollars and put them toward a policy that would lock up millions of acres of public lands and destroy thousands of jobs. The creation of new de-facto wilderness throughout the West would be severely detrimental to state and local economies and create a paralyzing uncertainty for western communities. Since the time it was announced, elected officials throughout the West recognized it was essential that this proposal be halted in its tracks. With the passage of this CR, we do just that. [...]

“The provision to defund Wild Lands is a victory for Utah and all public lands states. I thank my colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee, including Rep. Mike Simpson, for recognizing that funding the Wild Lands policy would be a wasteful use of taxpayer dollars and government resources."

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