Utah Fights Preservation of 6 Million Acres

     SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – Utah sued the Secretary of the Interior, claiming Interior has no power to preserve 6 million acres in the state by calling it “wild lands.” Utah claims Interior’s Secretarial Order 3310, of Dec. 22, 2010, is “procedurally flawed,” and impermissibly “constitutes a new rule” by “creating a new public land designation of ‘Wild Lands’.”

     Utah says the Secretary had the power to designate land as Wilderness Study Areas (WSA), but that power ran from just 1976 to 1991. And it claims that now “only Congress has the discretion to either designate WSA lands as part of the NWPS [National Wilderness Preservation System] or to release them for other uses.”
     The state claims that Order 3310 impermissibly created the new public land designation, created “additional steps in the implementation of land management decisions, independent of statutory or regulatory authority; and (3) supersed(ed) existing land use management plans.”
     “Order 3310 requires BLM to implement the following additional steps in the planning and management process of public land: (1) complete a re-inventory of all non-WSA [Wilderness Study Area] public lands; (2) identify lands with wilderness characteristics; and (3) once identified, ‘protect wilderness characteristics through land use planning and project-level decisions by avoiding impairment of such wilderness characteristics,” the state says.
     Utah says all this violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedures Act and the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLMPA).
     “Wilderness” is not listed as public land in the Federal Land Policy Management Act, according to the complaint.
     “Order 3310 elevates the management of wilderness characteristics above all other public uses in contravention of FLPMA’s multiple use mandate for non-WSA lands,” the state says.
     It claims that state and local governments were not contacted before the order was signed, and that notice and comment periods were never offered, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
     “BLM has no authority to so elevate any particular use of public land,” the complaint states. “… BLM’s authority to inventory and manage for WSAs under section 603 of FLPMA expired in 1993. Thus, BLM has acted without and beyond its authority by creating wilderness under the guise of the new designation, ‘wild lands.’
     Utah claims the order also violates a 2005 settlement in which the Bureau of Land Management agreed not to “establish, manage or otherwise treat public lands” as wilderness.
     It also claims that Interior and the BLM failed to prepare an environmental impact statement for the new category, in violation of the NEPA.
     “The very act of completing the additional steps effectively revises the land use plans and subjects the process to unconstrained agency discretion while failing to abide – indeed, completely disregarding – the statutorily prescribed revision process,” the complaint states.
     Utah wants Order 3310 declared ultra vires, arbitrary and capricious. It wants the order and related BLM manuals nullified.

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