Congress Rejects Administration’s Plan to Lock-up Public Lands in Continuing Resolution
WASHINGTON – The Public Lands Council (PLC), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) commend Congress for blocking federal funds from being used to implement, administer or enforce the Department of the Interior’s Wild Lands Order, Secretarial Order 3310 (the Order). The funding prohibition was included in the continuing resolution to fund the federal government through Sept. 30, 2011, which was passed by both the House (260 – 167) and the Senate (81 – 19) on April 14, 2011.
The Order instructed the Bureau of Land Management to shift from management for multiple-use activities to management for wilderness characteristics. Bill Donald, NCBA president and Montana rancher, said according to the Wilderness Act of 1964, Congress, not the administration, has authority to designate wilderness. He said the order would have allowed the BLM to establish de facto wilderness areas without obtaining congressional approval.
“The administration ignored the statute in proposing the Order. BLM Director Bob Abbey even admitted that the administration does not have statutory authority to elevate wild lands above other uses,” Donald said. “Fortunately for public lands ranchers and the communities across the western United States that rely on a thriving ranching industry, Congress put its foot down and stopped the administration from moving forward with the Order. Thankfully some leaders in Washington appear to understand the importance of our industry.”
John Falen, PLC president and Nevada rancher, said while the administration claims it is trying to protect BLM lands, the Order actually would have had negative effects on the land and its resources.
“When access to federal lands is limited, ranchers, the on-the-ground stewards, may be forced out of business, resulting in the fragmentation of open spaces,” Falen said. “The benefits of well-managed grazing to sustainable rangeland health and wildlife habitat are well documented. The Order would have jeopardized ranchers’ ability to care for and manage these lands.”
PLC, NCBA and ASI collectively represent ranchers and an industry which accounts for approximately 18,000 grazing permits on 157 million acres of BLM land. Margaret Soulen-Hinson, sheep producer from Idaho and ASI president, said public lands ranching contributes significantly to western rural economies.
“The wild lands initiative stirred up tremendous concern in the West about the loss of multiple use of public lands,” Soulen-Hinson said. “We commend Congress for blocking funding for the Order and for standing up for multiple-use activities and public lands ranchers across the Western United States.”