As the Bush administration is heading out the door, it continues to try to give away our cherished public lands. Here's what's happening, and what you can do to help:
This Friday, June 15th, the House of Representatives will be voting on the annual spending bill for the Interior Department and its Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM is the agency responsible for the management of lands proposed for wilderness protection in America's Red Rock Wilderness Act.
Redrock champion Maurice Hinchey successfully inserted language from the Interior appropriations committee which directs the BLM not to lease for oil and gas in wilderness-quality lands if less sensitive land is available, or if there are lands where drilling has already been approved but not yet fully developed.
Representative Mark Udall (D-CO) is expected to offer an amendment to the bill which would stop the Bush administration's policies that could give away hiking trails, cow paths, dirt tracks and other routes in National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, wilderness, and other sensitive public lands. Under the Bush policies, the BLM would make administrative determinations to hand over these trails and routes to states and counties as "RS2477 rights-of-way," and allow counties to develop and maintain them as roads. The Udall amendment would prevent the Bush administration from implementing these policies.
The way I see this one, they are trying to stop BLM from giving land to the states, to allow them to maintain them as roads/trails under the RS2477 law. This was originally setup to allow rights of way into mining areas years ago. Now we are trying to use this law to allow access into Surprise Canyon in the Panimint range. Could this law be abused by the BLM, and offer to turn every cow path into a road/trail that the state has to maintain? Yes, but then any law could be abused at the same time.
Again, we need to keep an eye on what is going on with this one, and let our representatives know what we think of this.