President Obama plans to reverse a decision made in 2003 by the Bush administration to make millions of acres of undeveloped land in the western part of the nation eligible for federal wilderness protection.
The old policy left the land open to commercial development, drilling, and mining.
As part of the reversal, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will review 220 million acres of land not currently protected to determine if it should be protected indefinitely. It is unknown how many acres will be deemed “Wild Lands,” but under the direction of Bob Abbey, the BLM has six months to submit a plan.
Those opposed to the reversal include republican members of Congress and ranchers and oil developers who fear newly dedicated Wild Lands will hurt rural economies reliant on oil and ranching.
White House memos leaked early in the year also stated the administration’s interest in designating 14 sites in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon for presidential monuments.
The reversal will not affect the 8.7 million acres already considered wilderness areas. It will also keep the Wild Lands separate from those areas Congress has designated as Wilderness Study Areas.