Hatch denounces new wilderness policy

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today denounced the Interior Department’s decision to change the way it designates wilderness areas, calling it a brazen attempt to kowtow to radical environmentalist groups by locking up more public lands in Utah and other states.
Hatch said the policy change, which was unveiled today by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, is the Obama administration’s attempt to do an end run around the 2003 agreement between Utah and the Department of Interior that requires the federal government to get congressional approval for wilderness designations.
"The decision to withdraw from the agreement is an insult to the people of Utah,” Hatch said. “Changing the wildlands-designation policy will destroy the balance and clarity that comes from allowing Congress to work with the public to develop and pass land-use bills. Today’s announcement is proof – if any more was required – of this Administration’s radical environmentalist agenda that threatens to devastate our Western way of life. The fact that Salazar waited until Congress had adjourned and members had left Washington for the holidays before announcing this shows that he knows this is bad policy.
“For decades, radical environmental elitists have used the courts to skirt Congress and the normal public process with respect to public lands,” the senator continued. “It looks like Secretary Salazar is trying to outdo them. When the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument was created in secret, I called it the ‘Mother of all Land Grabs.’ This move by Secretary Salazar dwarfs that.
“It is time for this Administration to put the needs of Utahns and other Americans above those of a few radical special interest groups who want to make the nation’s public lands their own personal playgrounds,” Hatch said. “I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that it does and that the authority to designate wilderness stays where it belongs – with Congress.”
Under the Interior Department’s extremist new policy, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will find other public lands with “wilderness-quality characteristics” and manage them as if they were formally designated wilderness areas, even without congressional approval.

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