Bureau of Land Management: Admits no authority to prioritize wild lands over grazing
On March 2, during a Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Administration’s “Wild Lands” order, Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) questioned Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Bob Abbey on the administration’s legal authority to prioritize “wild lands” above other multiple-uses of BLM lands. Under the Secretarial Order No. 3310, Department of Interior Secretary Salazar directed BLM to review its land inventories to further identify lands with wilderness characteristics. Under the Secretary’s order, these lands would be designated as wild lands and the agency’s Resource Management Plans would be adapted to reflect this new category.
Except in wilderness areas and wilderness study areas, most BLM land is managed for multiple-uses in order to obtain both economic and conservation benefits as required by law. According to Rep. Hastings, by focusing solely on wilderness values in the Secretary’s directive, the administration is elevating wilderness areas above other multiple-purpose uses.
Director Abbey admitted that the administration does not have statutory authority to elevate “wild lands” above other uses.
When questioned, Abbey stated, “I’m not sure it exists statutorily.”
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Director of Federal and Lands and Executive Director of the Public Lands Council Dustin Van Liew said subsequent to the hearing it became increasingly apparent that the administration is once again ignoring the agricultural community.
“In almost every agency under this administration that has any authority regarding agriculture, it seems apparent that they do not understand or value the importance of this country’s farmers and ranchers,” said Van Liew. “This industry, which is responsible for providing food and fiber for the world, is constantly ignored when important decisions are made.”
Designating an area as wilderness imposes the most restrictive land-use policies and places severe limitations on public access, prohibits many popular forms of recreation and severely restricts job-creating and energy-producing activities. That is why, under the Wilderness Act of 1964, only Congress has the authority to designate wilderness areas.
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