Multiple uses threatened
In a memo to BLM Director Bob Abbey, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar confirmed on June 1 that, pursuant to the 2011 Continuing Resolution, the BLM will not designate any lands as “Wild Lands.”
Though that may sound like a victory, Boulder rancher and Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman, speaking at the Wyoming Cattle Industry 2011 Convention and Trade Show in Laramie on June 2, said, “There remain many questions to be answered, and it’s premature to say that, based on this memo, the concerns about wilderness on BLM and Wild Lands are going away.”
In December 2010, Salazar issued Secretarial Order 3310, which directed the BLM to use the public resource management planning process to designate certain lands with wilderness characteristics as “Wild Lands.” The order was widely criticized for lack of input from Congress or local officials.
On April 14, 2011, Congress passed the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011, which includes a provision prohibiting the use of appropriated funds to implement, administer or enforce Secretarial Order 3310 in Fiscal Year 2011.
“This appears that he is at least admitting he didn’t have the authority to do it in the first place, and now he says we’ll go ahead and identify lands that may be appropriate for Congressional actions,” said Bousman.
Despite stopping short of designations, Salazar did outline how the Department of Interior will work in collaboration with members of Congress, states, tribes and local communities to “identify public lands that may be appropriate candidates for Congressional protection under the Wilderness Act.”
“The protection of America’s wilderness for hunting, fishing and backcountry recreation should be a unifying issue that mobilizes us to a common purpose,” said Salazar. “We will focus our effort on building consensus around locally-supported initiatives and working with members to advance their priorities for wilderness designations in their states and districts. Together, we can advance America’s proud wilderness legacy for future generations.”
In the memo, Salazar directed Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes to work with the BLM and interested parties to develop recommendations regarding the management of public lands with wilderness characteristics. Noting “longstanding and widespread support” for the designation of wilderness areas, Salazar also directed Hayes to solicit input from members of Congress, state and local officials, tribes and federal land managers to identify BLM lands that may be appropriate candidates for Congressional protection under the Wilderness Act. Hayes will deliver a report to the Secretary and Congress regarding those areas.
Salazar also noted that BLM must continue to meet its responsibilities under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), including the requirement that it maintain inventories of the public lands, their resources and other values that it manages.
The BLM manages 221 Wilderness Areas designated by Congress and 545 Wilderness Study Areas, comprising approximately 8.8 percent of the nearly 245 million acres managed by the BLM.
Bousman said his main concern is that actions including Wild Lands, the Equal Access to Justice Act and the Forest Service Planning Rule add up to management for preservation, as opposed to multiple use.
“The Forest Service is directed by law to manage for multiple use, but they’re talking about climate change in their new planning rule, and their action to manage for climate change is to kick off all activities and leave the land ‘natural’ and hope that helps,” said Bousman. “That’s managing for preservation as opposed to multiple use.”
Bousman noted that he lives in a public lands county totally economically dependent on multiple use on public lands.
“Without the use of those public lands we don’t have an economy, and our communities cannot sustain themselves. That’s where we as county commissioners have such a dog in this fight,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of discussion about how we, as local governments, can band together and be more effective at representing our multiple use economies. The economy of our state is highly dependent on the use of public lands; without that we’d have no economy in the state of Wyoming.”
Bousman said that three years ago energy revenue from Sublette County alone funded 20 percent of Wyoming’s General Fund.
“Almost all of that energy production was on public land, and that tells you how important it is,” he stated.
In response, the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, of which Bousman is president, hired a full-time staff attorney in early June to work with the BLM, Forest Service, grazing permittees and local governments.
He says the purpose of the attorney is to teach county commissioners how to be effective as cooperating agencies working with the Forest Service and BLM.
“I’ve had a lot of interest from a BLM liaison in D.C. who has offered to come participate on behalf of BLM, and to bring BLM into the same classroom with our county commissioners and explain what the law says, how they need to do their job and how county commissioners can be effective in representing their people on the ground,” explained Bousman. “This could be effective in any planning process where local folks determine they need to be a cooperating agency.”
“This whole Wild Lands issue, although it’s important, is one of many important issues. We need to figure out how to be more effective in our Western states in keeping our multiple use on our public lands,” he said.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.