Wild Lands Policy

On December 23, 2010, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued Secretarial Order 3310. The Secretarial Order directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to “designate appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its jurisdiction as ‘Wild Lands’ and to manage them to protect their wilderness values.”

I have a long list of concerns about the Department of Interior’s Wild Lands initiative, not the least of which is the fact that it was rolled out without giving the public an opportunity to comment on it and without the opportunity for congressional oversight. I’m concerned that this initiative will make it more difficult to make good land management decisions and result in increased litigation.

The longer this initiative has been out in the public, the more concerns I hear about the impact it will have on ranching, energy production, recreation, and even the BLM’s own ability to manage their lands. To that list, I would add my own deep concern that with this initiative, the Department has overstepped its authority. Only Congress has the authority to create new land designations.

Because of these concerns, I included language in the FY11 Continuing Resolution (CR) to prohibit the use of funding for implementing the Wild Lands policy. This provision was signed into law by President Obama on April 15, 2011. The funding prohibition is currently still in effect through the existing continuing resolution. The responsibility for making land management designations belongs to Congress, not the agency. I believe the Department needs to work with Congress on this issue.