Interior Department Will Not Designate Public Lands as ‘Wild Lands’

The Interior Department is backing away from a plan to make millions of acres of undeveloped land in the west eligible for federal wilderness protection. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement in a memo today to the director of the Bureau of Land Management.  The Interior Department says it will not designate any public lands as “wild lands,” that would have allowed them to be inventoried for wilderness qualities. Salazar made the decision after Congress passed a law that prohibited funding being used for his wild lands policy.

Cindy Shogan is Executive director of the Alaska Wilderness Leauge. She says outside of the National Petroleum Reserve, most BLM lands in Alaska haven’t been inventoried. And that makes this decision especially disappointing.

Several western states, including Alaska, sued or threatened lawsuits to block the policy after it was announced late last year. Governor Sean Parnell released a statement today saying he’s pleased with Salazar’s announcement. The state is now evaluating its legal options.

Both of Alaska’s senators also praised the decision. Senator Lisa Murkowski said in a statement that Congress should retain the sole authority and responsibility to designate lands for inclusion in the National Wilderness System.

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