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Lay of the land

A lot of misinformation is being bandied about concerning H.R. 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011.

Contrary to what opponents may want you to believe, the bill — which is now being considered in Congress — wouldn't open nearly 44 million acres of public land to interests that would decimate it.

The bill would merely allow federal land managers to re-evaluate the 43.8 million acres of public land in question to determine what uses, if any, should be allowed, with input from the local community.

The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act involves 6.7 million acres managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management and 36.1 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land that was evaluated for strict congressional Wilderness land-use designations.

The federal agencies have determined the 43.8 million acres aren't suitable for wilderness designation, which is one of the strictest forms of public land management. Yet, because of various laws and rules, they must continue to strictly manage the land as de facto wilderness until Congress "releases" it for consideration for other possible uses.

In fact, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., stated in a hearing of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee that the bill doesn't dictate what will or won't happen on the released lands. Rather, he said, it returns management to the respective agencies using well-established criteria.

It provides them the flexibility to manage our public lands for a multitude of activities, including responsible motorized recreation.

BLM Director Robert Abbey and Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment in the Department of Agriculture, agreed.

Wayne Allard
March 21, 2012

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