Republicans to Block Wilderness Protection Plans

by Green Jobs Ready on March 2, 2011

On Tuesday, Republican governors and members of Congress vowed to fight the Obama administration’s plan to make millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West eligible for federal wilderness protection.

Back in December, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, announced plans to reverse a Bush-era policy and make the acres of public land again eligible for wilderness protection.  The new policy has been called “a common-sense solution that will help the agency better manage public lands, waters and wildlife.”

Yet once again, we’re seeing little advancement with the Obama administration’s push for progressive energy and environmental policy because of stubborn and dangerous positions the GOP has taken for the sake of profit.

The Huffington Post reports that the GOP officials said “the plan would circumvent Congress’s authority and could be used to declare a vast swath of public land off-limits to oil-and-gas drilling.”

Republicans, waging a strong fight against wilderness protection are calling on their fellow Congress members to “take back their authority” and block the new policy from taking effect.

Their loyalties to profit without regard to health and environmental risks become apparent in their slippery arguments.  Cleverly, they try to appeal to working class families using emotive force.  For example, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said a December order by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was harming rural communities throughout Utah whose economies rely on use of public lands.  He argues that the order hinders economic development, [somehow] hurting key funding sources for Utah’s school children.

Herbet’s emotionally charged logic ignores the fact that public funding can be sought in a variety of ways that do not destroy the environment or put public health at risk.  Public investments in solar and wind technologies are just a couple of sources that would provide state and local funding, while simultaneously generating renewable energy and ensuring the protection of natural environments.

Further, Bob Abbey, director of the Bureau of Land Management states that “the policy by itself does not itself create any wild lands designation, nor does it require that any particular lands be protected. Designation as wild land can only be made after public comments and review and does not necessarily prohibit motor vehicle use or the staking of new mining claims.”  In fact, the wild lands policy “provides local communities and the public with a strong voice in the decisions affecting the nation’s public lands.”

In an interview, Abbey said planning has already begun, and designation of the first wild lands could occur as soon as this summer in Idaho, Wyoming and Alaska. He denied that the plan is unpopular in the West, citing letters of support from recreation and conservation groups and the outdoor industry.

Abbey acknowledges that the oppositional rhetoric comes from Western lawmakers and not grassroots.

A letter to Congress written by group of recreation business owners and outfitters from six Western states state that “Rural counties with wilderness or other protected federal lands experience greater economic and population growth than those without wilderness.”

In order progress into a healthy and sustainable future, progress action on energy and environmental policy needs happen.  To ensure this, we need let our representatives know that we don’t welcome short sighted economic plans that destroy the quality of life in the long run.

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