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New Wild Lands Policy Will Materially Affect Public Land Use in 2011 and Beyond

Hey GFYODF can you make sense of this??


05-January-2011
Authors
Robert D. Comer
This article is provided as a courtesy to our clients and friends.

On December 23, 2010, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a new policy for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) protection of wilderness characteristics and the establishment of an entirely new class of lands to be managed for preservation, to be called "Wild Lands." This Wilderness and Wild Lands policy (Secretarial Order No. 3310, dated December 22, 2010), announced on the steps of a sporting goods store in Denver, goes to the very essence of the BLM Resource Management Planning Process. The new policy will materially impact many existing and planned oil, gas and mining projects, and will also affect access to public lands for recreation, travel and grazing, among other common public land uses as well. Moreover, the "Wild Lands" policy will likely result in substantial litigation in years to come.
Key to the new policy is preservation of wilderness characteristics as "Wild Lands," which will be protected in the interim as though they had been designated Wilderness, an authority arguably reserved solely to Congress. Wilderness characteristics refer to the statutory concept from the 1964 Wilderness Act of an area of "undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence" and containing "outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation," among other characteristics.

Invoking Secretary Salazar's "treasured landscape" theme at its core, the policy requires that prior to making or implementing decisions on public lands, those lands be inventoried for wilderness characteristics. To the extent the governing Resource Management Plan (RMP), which provides a framework and guides the use of BLM lands, has not inventoried for wilderness characteristics, an inventory with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance must be completed prior to authorizing any activity involving lands that may have wilderness characteristics. For RMPs where the lands have been inventoried for wilderness characteristics--which has been required since implementation of the Bush policy in 2003--and for the newly inventoried lands with NEPA compliance where wilderness characteristics have been identified, the new BLM policy adds a material hurdle. It precludes any activity that would impair a wilderness characteristic absent a written justification and subject to approval by a designated BLM administrative officer. Once those lands are designated as Wild Lands in the RMP planning process, the BLM may not impair their wilderness characteristic. Previously, this "non-impairment" management restriction was limited in its application to Wilderness designated by Congress and to Wilderness Study Areas. The Secretarial Order also mandates that BLM conduct a new round of Wilderness Inventory for recommendation to Congress, breathing new life into the historic and newly developed citizen wilderness proposals.

This classification of Wild Lands puts front and center the conflict between a preservation/passive recreation use and virtually all other public land uses. For example, in Colorado, nearly 20% of BLM lands presently are categorized in some form of wilderness classification or for preservation management. This compares with less than 1% of Colorado BLM surface temporarily being used for oil and gas development. Given that most RMPs and pending agency actions now will be subject to a new round of wilderness-characteristic and Wild Lands planning, project proponents may wait years to see their projects advance to the decision stage. The effect of this decision, in our view, may be to create a permit moratorium, or "permitorium," on BLM public land activities. It is now essential that project proponents actively and effectively participate in the Resource Management Planning process or risk their project's viability. As a first step, project proponents should evaluate the existing RMP and NEPA documents for their projects to determine whether a wilderness characteristics inventory has been performed in identifying project "next steps." Please contact Bob Comer of Faegre & Benson LLC at (303) 607-3812 should you have any questions concerning the new BLM Wild Lands policy or what the next steps for your project might be in view of this policy.
 

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Fly Chucker said:
New Wild Lands Policy Will Materially Affect Public Land Use in 2011 and Beyond

Hey GFYODF can you make sense of this??
This is the first I've heard of this. It may take me a few days to look into it.

At first glance, it appears that it will put a lot of proposed development on hold while the subject parcels of land are "inventoried".

As much as I favor limiting development where reasonable, I am also opposed to the elitist notion that public lands should only be open to non-mechanized recreation, which is the way a lot of the "preservation" movement seems to be going.
 
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