US Sec. of the Interior Ken Salazar hopes to submit a preliminary list of areas suitable for federal wilderness designation to Congress in mid-October, but many of the areas will be within larger multiple-use tracts developed with input from states’ congressional delegations, county and local officials, and a wide range of stakeholders, he and Deputy Interior Sec. David J. Hayes told reporters during a teleconference.
“We’ve learned that these lands are a huge economic engine for communities. We are hearing from small business owners, outfitters, tourism directors, and others how important they are,” said Salazar, who was in New Mexico. “We also have heard that land conservation proposals need to be tailored that recognize the unique characteristics of each area.”
Hayes, who was in Winnemucca, Nev., added, “We’ve seen there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that fits all areas. This morning, I left a stakeholder meeting for the Pine Forest area in northern Nevada where ranchers, sportsmen, ATV owners and others have come together to preserve an area and agree on an approach to hard-wire the current uses so there’s permanent protection.”
Oil and gas and mineral stakeholders will be included, he indicated. “Here in northern Nevada, for example, a representative of the Nevada Mining Association participated and determined that the area is not needed for future mining,” Hayes said.
The strategy is bipartisan and includes areas which several Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress would like to preserve, Salazar said. US Bureau of Land Management Director Robert V. Abbey and several state BLM directors also provided input, he added. “People in both parties have introduced wilderness bills,” the secretary said.
“The report we’re going to provide is going to identify some specific areas we believe have bipartisan support from a lot of stakeholders,” said Hayes. “It won’t be an exhaustive list, but one that will list areas that the stakeholders have been pushing for.”
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