(KCPW News) Governor Gary Herbert’s Senior Adviser on Environmental Affairs says the Interior Department’s decision to drop an initiative to designate “wild lands” is a responsible one. Ted Wilson says the original action of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to pursue the designation froze local governments out of the process, but now Congress will be able to work with local and state governments on wilderness bills, including two already coming out of Piute and San Juan counties.
“I know it’s a discouraging thing for the environmental community, but I really think there is a sunny side to it. And that is we can get back to the negotiations and now we have some opportunity to get some real wilderness in Utah as well as letting county leaders know they have an economic life in their county,” he told KCPW.
Sierra Club Northwest Organizing Manager Marc Heileson says it’s no surprise because of a budget deal approved by Congress that prevented the Interior Department from spending any money to designate wild lands.
“Of course, they can’t do something they have no funding to do so this is building on this very underhanded legislative trick, you know, these budget riders that have nothing to do with the budget,” he says. “This is how important it is to get this funding restored in the next budget process and to dump out that cheap shot that was thrown in there at the very last minute.”
Secretary Salazar said in a memo the Bureau of Land Management can continue looking at lands, but can’t move forward with the designation. Heileson says Utah lands can’t receive the protection they deserve unless the funding is restored.
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