BLM Role in Protecting Land a Welcome Change

By Arturo Sandoval
President, Latino Sustainability Institute

The era of “no more wilderness” is over. Thanks to a policy change just announced by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, many of our public lands now have the opportunity to be protected.

Salazar’s announcement reaffirmed the Bureau of Land Management’s ability to assess the full value of our wild lands. The new policy green-lights the BLM to inventory potential wilderness, recommend to Congress those wild lands worthy of consideration for wilderness and safeguard those wild lands until Congress acts.

No longer will wilderness quality lands remain at risk for oil and gas development, commercial timbering or road development.
Instead, the value of clean water, healthy air, wildlife habitat and non-motorized recreation will be on equal footing with development, clearing the way for sounder decisions regarding the future of our public lands.

In New Mexico, we currently have five designated BLM Wilderness Areas, including two recently created areas: Sabinoso in San Miguel County and the Ojito Wilderness in Sandoval County.

All five BLM wilderness areas total about 166,000 acres. The BLM also currently has 58 Wilderness Study Areas totaling 958,000 acres across the state.

These are areas that have the potential to become wilderness if Congress chooses to create them.

Combined, these areas comprise only 8 percent of the BLM’s 13.4 million acres in New Mexico.

Surely, we can afford to keep some of New Mexico’s wild places safe from human development!

So a big thank you to the Obama administration for reasserting BLM’s role in protecting America’s natural gems. The measure sure seems like a New Year’s resolution worth keeping.

Read more: ABQJOURNAL OPINION/GUEST_COLUMNS: BLM Role in Protecting Land a Welcome Change
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