Wilderness changes debated

At the end of December, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued an order that reversed the Bush administration’s “no new wilderness” policy, directing state Bureau of Land Management offices to survey their states for remote and unspoiled tracts of land that could be candidates for wilderness designation.

“[T]he protection of wild lands is important to the American people and should therefore be a high priority in BLM’s management policies [and] the public should have a say in designating certain public lands as ‘Wild Lands’ and expanding those areas or modifying their management over time,” Salazar said in a prepared statement.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported on that change, saying it was “stirring anger” in the West. Among others, it quoted U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, who said, “The message of the [2010] election is we want less regulation, less government intrusion. We want to keep these lands open.”

Field & Stream columnist Hal Herring quoted Heller and the other Republicans in the Journal piece and responded, “The lack of any substantial meaning in these quotes is not what is most disturbing about them. What is disturbing is that we seem to have lost any conservative political leaders who understand sportsmen’s concerns, or, in the same vein, who recognize that there can be value in undisturbed land, or waters, or that intact ecosystems, with their healthy game and fish populations, also hold economic value in producing clean water, clean air, grazing, wildlife, flood or invasive weed control, all those elements that may not always add to the bottom line of corporate profit, but are the actual bottom line of life on this planet.”