During a holiday week when the step could be expected to draw little attention, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Dec. 23 announced his agency would review about 220 million acres of land controlled by the BLM to see how much of it should be designated under a new class of public lands protection called “wild lands.”
The move allows Mr. Salazar’s bureaucrats to fence off millions of additional undeveloped acres in the West, sidestepping the legal requirements that actual new “wilderness” designations be OK’d by Congress.
The move was welcomed by the environmental extremists, but drew a strong rebuke from Nevada Rep. Dean Heller, who said, “This action is a blatant attempt by this administration to circumvent Congress and create de facto wilderness. If a portion of land is truly deserving of a wilderness designation, this administration should not be afraid to engage Congress.”
The BLM is supposed to manage land for energy and mineral production, livestock grazing, recreation, and — yes — wilderness and national monuments. Mr. Salazar said the new “wild lands” designation would “restore balance” between energy development and protecting wilderness.
This move should not be viewed in isolation. When the public went to the polls Nov. 2, they effectively chose to rein in much of the Obama administration’s agenda, instead electing a more conservative House with a mandate to slash government spending and regulation in order to loosen the bonds on America’s entrepreneurial economy.
But the White House appears reluctant to accept that outcome.
In the short run, the best answer is for Western delegates to band together in Washington and enact the Eastern Seaboard Wetlands Restoration Act, requiring that for every 100 acres of additional lands declared “wild lands” in the West, 100 acres of land within 100 miles of the Atlantic seaboard shall be cleared of human habitation and restored to its natural splendor as pristine wetlands habitat for ducks, mosquitoes and water moccasins.
When East Coast constituents face real ramifications from the “creation of additional federal wild lands,” we’ll see how enthusiastic their representatives remain about this clever end run around Congress.