A fishy reversal on "wild lands" policy

Posted: Jun 7, 2011

Written by

The Denver Post

The Obama administration's about-face on a policy that would allow temporary protection of pristine federally owned land is disappointing, particularly here in Colorado, where residents so clearly value wilderness.

In a memo Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his agency would not designate U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands as "wild lands," which would safeguard them while lawmakers mull whether to permanently protect them.

The move ostensibly was due to Republican maneuvers to cut the program's funding. But surely there was more at work. In times of high gas prices, the policy could have been a political liability as President Obama sought re-election.

There is no question the wild lands policy was controversial — in part because it limited oil and gas development. Yet it does so on only a sliver of all BLM land. The problem with allowing mining and drilling on federal land that Congress might eventually protect is that once it is developed, it no longer will have the qualities that make it suitable for preservation. Once it's gone, it's gone for good.


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