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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Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace.
Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon.
afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie

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