- Number-crunchers put GOP chances of retaking Senate at 60 percent: report
- Ohio sheriff sends bill to Mexico for cost of jailing illegals
- Fla. voters’ support for medical marijuana bodes well for ballot measure: poll
- Keith Urban concert ends in ‘nutso’ chaos, with dozens arrested, injured
- Very religious still lean toward GOP, reflecting long-term patterns, Gallup poll shows
- Fist bump becoming all the rage for germ-wary handshakers
- Tennessee storms ravage counties, wreck 10 homes
- Chinese police tear down church cross in religion crackdown
- Iraqi Christians rally at White House: ‘Obama, Obama, where are you?’
- Maine police find wife, husband, 3 children dead in home
Environmentalists suffer on key budget provisions
Resolution prohibits ‘wild lands’ policy funding
Question of the Day
DENVER | The biggest losers in the federal budget deal may have been environmentalists, who suffered setbacks not only with cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency budget but also with the shellacking of two of the movement's pet programs.
The Continuing Resolution includes a provision that prohibits funding for the so-called "wild lands" policy, an Obama administration initiative that allows the Interior Department to confer special protections on federal lands without congressional approval.
The resolution also removes the gray wolf of the Northern Rocky Mountains from the endangered species list and allows for state management, which would include managed hunts for the wolves, a species that once was decimated but now thrives.
The additions came as unexpected defeats for the environmental movement, which has enjoyed a series of victories for the past two years under Democratic rule. The Wilderness Society issued a statement Tuesday saying that the resolution "attempts to roll back the clock and open up our wildest lands to drilling and destruction."
"We are very disappointed by the restrictive language regarding the Wild Lands policy," said Wilderness Society President William H. Meadows in a statement. "The fact is that the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] has a legal obligation to protect America's most sensitive public lands, and we will continue to work to make sure those lands are protected by congressional or administrative decisions."
For Western conservatives, however, the resolution came as a reprieve, albeit a brief one. Last week's budget deal extends only to Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, after which the 2012 budget must be negotiated.
"I think it's fine, but it's also temporary," said Chuck Cushman, executive director of the American Land Rights Association in Battle Ground, Wash. "It gives us some breathing room for the time being. You don't think the other side is going to sit still for this, do you?"
Western Republicans have blasted the wild-lands policy not only for its content but also for how it was issued, which happened a few days before Christmas while Congress was in recess. The initiative gives the Bureau of Land Management broad authority to identify and restrict access to wild lands with "wilderness characteristics."
The result would be restrictions on multiple-use activities such as mining, grazing, vehicle access and recreation. Federal lands may now be protected by being designated as wilderness areas, but such a designation requires an act of Congress.
"It smells bad and it is bad from a process perspective," said Holly Propst, executive director of the Western Business Roundtable in Lakewood, Colo.
Seven Western Republican governors signed a letter in February insisting that Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar withdraw the initiative. The Utah Association of Counties filed a lawsuit claiming the policy circumvents congressional authority, and the state of Utah is likely to follow.
At the center of the congressional action was Rep. Michael K. Simpson, Idaho Republican, who inserted the wild-lands language into the final House budget bill, saying that the Interior Department "has overstepped its authority."
"Only Congress has the authority to create new land designations, and I intend to restore that authority by including this provision in the continuing resolution," Mr. Simpson said in a statement Tuesday.
Western states have fought for years for the authority to manage their wolf populations, and at one point they had it. The Fish and Wildlife Service had issued an order delisting wolves in Idaho and Montana in 2009, stating that the species had met or exceeded its recovery goals, but a 2010 federal court decision placed them back on the endangered species list.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy rejected a proposed settlement between the federal government and environmental groups that would have resumed state management in Idaho and Montana.
That decision placed the ball back in Congress's court, said Mr. Simpson.
"Judge Molloy's decision left little doubt that without the passage of my language, wolves would remain under unnecessary federal protection indefinitely," said Mr. Simpson.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Westerners call for oversight to combat federal land managers
- Protesters rally in Colorado to support Israel's fight with Hamas
- Plagiarism scandal threatens Senate campaign of Montana Democrat John Walsh
- Conservative groups decry Democrats' 'war on women' tactic
- Act would create tax-free savings accounts for the disabled
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Mark Davis
The nation founders, the Lone Star State thrives
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Family of Marine killed in Afghanistan pushes back against cover-up
- Rahm Emanuel: Send illegal immigrant shelter kids to Chicago
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam slams White House for secret dump of illegals in his state
- CURL: Obama, staffers not even pretending any more
- D.C. seeks stay in order striking down ban on handguns in public
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- 'Pocket drones': U.S. Army developing tiny spies for the next big war
- Washington Times strikes content and marketing partnership with Redskins
- '50 Shades' movie trailer outrages anti-porn groups
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq