September is National Wilderness Month but where’s the beef?

Amidst partisan gridlock in DC, natural disasters and a faltering economy, we were gladdened to see President Obama’s announcement last week of the third annual National Wilderness Month.  We expect this time that these words will be followed by action and leadership, since the administration’s record on wilderness so far has resulted in very little.

Earlier this year the White House threw the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the bus when it allowed House Republicans to place a funding limitation on the agency’s signature Wild Lands policy.  Later, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar showed no resolve when he capitulated to a handful of anti-wilderness politicians and shelved the initiative indefinitely – leaving millions of acres of redrock wilderness subject to the Bush administration’s harmful policies.

So where does that leave us now?

The BLM is currently collecting wilderness suggestions from local elected officials, tribal representatives and other stakeholders – but noticeably not the public.  Salazar is hoping the resulting “Crown Jewels Report” will spontaneously transform into an Omnibus Public Lands bill just like the one awaiting the President when he took office, for which he is still taking credit.  We’d love to see that happen, but given the partisan strife in Congress and the latest reactions to the BLM’s suggestion from our neighbors in Wyoming as well as several Utah counties, we’re not holding our breath.

We agree with the President that there is much to appreciate in our nation’s wilderness landscapes and hope you do so every month of the year.  But we need leadership from the administration when it comes to this pressing issue and lately, it’s been lacking.  In the weeks to come, we’re going to make sure the President hears your voice and realizes the importance of protecting Utah’s wilderness heritage. Stay tuned…