Ken Salazar’s power grab, just in time for Christmas


In an 11th hour move one day after Congress adjourned for the year, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials announced a new policy allowing the BLM to designate public lands as de facto wilderness without the approval of states or Congress. The new policy – which overturns the Utah Wilderness Settlement Agreement – will allow the BLM to do an end-run around Congress by designating public lands as “Wild Lands” areas. These new areas would be subject to similar regulations and restrictions as that of wilderness areas.

“Secretary Salazar’s decision to change the existing policy is a blatant attempt to usurp Congress’ role over public land management. The Constitution gives exclusive control of the public lands to Congress, and the only authority that the Executive branch agencies exercise over the federal lands is that which is delegated by Congress,” said Western Caucus Chairman Rob Bishop. “Make no mistake about it, this decision will seriously hinder domestic energy development and further contributes to the uncertainty and economic distress that continues to prevent the creation of new jobs in a region that has unduly suffered from this Administration’s radical policies. This is little more than an early Christmas present to the far left extremists who oppose the multiple use of our nation’s public lands.”

Today’s announcement directly contradicts previous assurances Secretary Salazar gave to Congress that the Utah Wilderness Settlement Agreement is consistent with federal law, thus validating that agencies do not have the authority to create de facto wilderness.

“It was only yesterday that President Obama spoke about the importance of cooperation. Yet today his administration has turned around and deliberately slapped western communities in the face. It has become commonplace that this Administration attempts to arbitrarily regulate that which they cannot successfully legislate. Unfortunately, this is the kind of doublespeak we have come to expect from this administration,” Bishop added.

“In order to work cooperatively, we need to trust one another. The announcement today calls into question whether Secretary Salazar’s word can be trusted,” Bishop concluded. “I am concerned that today’s decision puts the prospects of future congressional designation of wilderness at serious risk.”

Perhaps they looked at the census numbers and the migration west and decided that the best response was a great big in-your-face. Thanks so much for one last Christmas present from DC.


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14 Responses to “Ken Salazar’s power grab, just in time for Christmas”

  1. JBT Says:

    Holly wrote that the new policy “OVERTURNS the Utah Wilderness Settlement Agreement”.

    This is what the Q & A of the link she provided says:

    Does this new policy overturn the 2003 Norton-Leavitt Settlement (“Utah Settlement”) that prohibited the BLM from identifying new WSAs?

    The 2003 Norton-Leavitt Settlement does not apply to the BLM’s broad authority to protect lands with wilderness characteristics under sections 102, 103, 201, 202, and 302, among others, of FLPMA. This Secretary’s Order charts a new course for the BLM’s management, through its multiple-use mission, of these special lands. The new BLM policy required by the Order will provide a process for the BLM to update its wilderness inventory information and provide guidance on how to evaluate lands with wilderness characteristics in the land use planning process.

  2. reffaree Says:

    doublespeak and LIES. BUCK OFAMA. Merry Christmas.

  3. hollyonthehill Says:

    JBT, here’s another source for you to beat up on. The ultra-conservative SL Trib has an article out on this issue – and Utah has one hacked-off governor.

  4. James Says:

    This goes beyond rule making and clearly steps into the realm of law making. The vesting clause of Article I vests all legislative power in Congress, and nowhere is there an authorization for Congress to delegate its clear law making function. Therefore, this is unconstitutional.

    Because states are dual sovereigns, we have just as much authority to fight this type of encroachment – and to refuse to comply – as the DOI has to force something like this upon us.

    These encroachments are only going to continue until we fight. My suggestion is simple. Just say no and refuse to comply. Until we make moves like this, and liberate other states to follow suit, states will continue to be sacrificed on the alter of centralization.

  5. JBT Says:

    Holly, I’m surprised that you have allowed reffaree’s vulgarity in your column.

  6. hollyonthehill Says:

    JBT, you’re right. Just busy with real life. Reff, tone it down, please. And JBT, you need to tone it down too.

  7. rmwarnick Says:

    Despite the somewhat predictable freakout by Rep. Bishop, Senator Hatch, Gov. Herbert and others, this order by Secretary Salazar represents nothing more than a return to the normal BLM resource management planning process.

    Under Section 202 of the Federal Land Management Policy Act of 1976 (FLPMA) (PDF), the Department of the Interior can set aside public lands for preservation — subject to congressional approval. This is always done via the regular planning process, allowing full public participation and coordination with elected officials on the local, state and federal levels.

    The Leavitt-Norton out-of-court settlement in 2003, which conservationists refer to as the “No More Wilderness” policy, of course could not reverse an act of Congress. Then Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton simply made an agreement to refrain from exercising the option to set aside any wilderness-eligible lands as long as the Bush administration remained in office.

    Secretary Salazar has been dragging his feet on this issue of restoring the open, democratic BLM planning process according to FLPMA. It remains to be seen if any future BLM resource management plans will actually propose setting aside wilderness-eligible lands that were rejected during the wilderness review that concluded in 1991.

    If any public lands do get re-inventoried, the BLM can identify them as Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC). An LWC is not a wilderness study area (WSA) and is not eligible for inclusion in the National Landscape Conservation System. It is definitely not the same as a wilderness area, which is a unit in the National Wilderness Preservation System designated by an act of Congress.

  8. JBT Says:

    Holly. It is not about “toning down” the rhetoric. It is about using a vulgar euphemism directed at our nation’s president. If you let this remain, then you are inviting others including myself to use the same language against the leaders of your political party, church, etc. Are you, or are you not going to remove this vulgarity?

  9. Pops Says:

    Why would anyone accept such an invitation, assuming it exists?

  10. utahenergyideas Says:

    What percentage of Utah’s land the US Federal Government “owns” was acquired by the federal government with the consent of the Legislature and in accordance with the United States Constitution Article I, Section 8, Clause 17?

    If the answer is “very little if any”, it is time to get the rest back.

  11. rmwarnick Says:

    Fred C. Cox doesn’t have a comment section on his own blog, so I will answer him here.

    See U.S. Constitution Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2.

    Congress has the power to dispose of and legislate for all territories and properties belonging to the United States. Most of the public lands in Utah have never been under state control.

  12. utahenergyideas Says:

    “Most of the public lands in Utah have never been under state control.”

    I don’t believe you will find any approval by Utah, as required by Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 for any of these lands to remain under federal control.

  13. rmwarnick Says:

    Um, it was a condition of statehood. See the Utah Enabling Act of 1894, Sec. 12.

    The said State of Utah shall not be entitled to any further or other grants of land for any purpose than as expressly provided in this act…

  14. rmwarnick Says:

    I can’t resist one more comment. I find it amazing that the right has gotten so extreme that we can’t even debate wilderness protection anymore without encountering someone who opposes the entire concept of public lands.

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