Blue Ribbon Coalition Warns Against BLM Wilderness Bill
Just one day before Christmas Eve 2010, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced that he had signed an Order that seeks to embed a Wilderness review in every component of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) planning, creating a unique status for Wilderness different from other multiple uses in BLM management. Secretarial Order No. 3310 and Draft Wilderness Inventory Manual
The order appears to be one of the best Christmas gifts any Wilderness activist could hope for. The timing was no accident. Secretary Salazar's new order came just after the Lame Duck Congress adjourned, having failed to pass the massive Public Lands Omnibus Bill--a package that would have created millions of acres of new Wilderness, openly supported by the Secretary. It was no accident the Order was announced after legislators had gone home for the holiday. It was no accident that none but Wilderness insiders and their media outlets knew about it until the last minute. And, it was certainly no accident that at the ceremony, the Secretary was standing right next to people like Peter Metcalf, CEO of Black Diamond Equipment, and that the ceremony itself took place at the REI Building in Denver - a virtual altar scene for Wilderness worshippers.
You have every reason to fear under-handed tactics even more suspicious than those attempted by some of their lame duck legislative allies. Wilderness activists will likely try to use Secretary Salazar's Order to further paralyze meaningful BLM travel management and to create millions of acres of new Wilderness.
For decades, Wilderness activist groups have applied constrictor-like pressure on the BLM regarding Wilderness issues. Some of BRC Legal's finest moments have come in rejecting those efforts, most notably the dismissal of the infamous SUWA case in Utah District Court on BRC-USA All's motion, eventually upheld by a 9-0 thumping in the U.S. Supreme Court. Sadly, this looks like another inside job in the offing, through which anti-access interests seek to seize a window of political opportunity to again squeeze BLM into a never-ending, ongoing Wilderness inventory and management scheme.
The Order is as complex and convoluted as any validly promulgated law or regulation. Its meaning is not readily apparent and will likely be determined by the courts. Our staff has conducted an initial review, which is summarized at http://www.sharetrails.org/public-lands/?section=salazar_order.
We are not naïve enough to proclaim what Secretary Salazar's Order will ultimately mean. However, we can fairly predict what Wilderness activists outside and within BLM will say it means. They will try to use it as a landmark tool to close long-traveled routes on BLM land, not unlike they did with the Clinton-Gore Roadless Rule. History also teaches that, while all other users of BLM lands and the economies supported by them will be affected, the trail users and advocacy groups like BRC are likely to be at the point of attack (if not standing alone) in meaningful opposition.
This opposition will require a lot of time, effort, coordination and skill. It will require BRC, partners and stakeholders to be at their best. And it will cost money. I would love to wax eloquent about skinny David slaying wealthy Goliath, but I hope over the years you've learned better. You know Secretary Salazar's friends did.
We hope you will consider an end of year donation to help us fund this important fight. If you've completed your giving for tax year 2010, please put this issue on your list of campaigns to consider supporting in 2011 - and beyond.
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PS: Currying political favor through public lands policy is not what Congress intended when it established the agencies that manage our public lands.
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