By Christy Goldfuss, the Public Lands Project Director at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
In a hearing on Thursday, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) claimed that the overwhelming majority of westerners oppose the administration’s recent work to protect wild lands, a responsibility illegally ignored by the Bush administration. As he was questioning Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at a budget hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee, Bishop held up a pile of letters and claimed that the people directly impacted by Secretarial Order 3310 are the ones complaining “time and time again”:
Why are the people directly impacted by these decisions are the ones who are complaining time and time again about these decisions?
The Wild Lands policy introduced by the administration last December fulfills the government’s responsibility under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to “prepare and maintain” an inventory of public lands for all uses, including wilderness. Under the Bush administration, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had ignored that responsibility.
As Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said during an oversight hearing last week, “the Bush administration did not want Congress to preserve wilderness so they volunteered to stop looking for it.” In a settlement with the State of Utah, then Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton abandoned BLM’s responsibility to designate new wilderness study areas beyond those identified by recommendations made to Congress in 1993. In the last five years, BLM found more than 18,000 new sites for oil and gas wells but not a single new site for potential wilderness.
When Bishop took the opportunity to support Big Oil, he snubbed the other western elected officials and business owners that support the Wild Lands policy, including those from his own district and state. A letter thanking Secretary Salazar for the Wild Lands policy was signed by 67 elected officials from around the West. People in Colorado were so supportive of the policy that 73 elected officials signed their own letter, and seven businesses from Congressman Bishop’s own district asked him to stop his attack of the Wild Lands policy. That’s 147 businesses and elected officials from around the West that aren’t complaining. They’re saying thanks.