Utah goes to court over "Wild Lands"


Author: Daniel Himebaugh

The State of Utah has filed a federal lawsuit to invalidate the Department of the Interior's "Wild Lands" policy.  The Wild Lands policy took effect late last year, when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued Secretarial Order 3310.  Pursuant to the Order, the Bureau of Land Management must inventory lands with "wilderness characteristics" under its jurisdiction, "protect" those lands when making project-level decisions, and designate such lands as "Wild Lands" when the Bureau determines that they should not be put to productive use.  The policy has been roundly criticized as making large tracts of land in the western states off-limits for natural resource exploration.

Utah's complaint sets out several claims, including that the Order exceeds the scope of the BLM's authority under the Federal Land Policy Management Act, that the Secretary did not follow appropriate rulemaking procedures for issuing the Order, and that the agency failed to follow environmental review procedures under the National Environmental Policy Act.