Bruce Babbit and conservation groups agenda

Discussion in 'Land Use' started by mudfanatic, May 9, 2000.

  1. mudfanatic

    mudfanatic 1/2 ton status

    Feb 18, 2000
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    Aloha, Oregon
    RE: Bruce Babbit and conservation groups agenda

    Thursday, May 4, 2000

    Groups Push Land Limits

    By Tania Soussan
    Journal Staff Writer
    Conservation groups asked Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt on Wednesday
    to protect 160 million acres of roadless areas on public land - including
    about 2 million acres in New Mexico.
    The conservation coalition wants Babbitt to temporarily make the federal
    Bureau of Land Management property off-limits to new mining, off-road
    vehicles and oil and gas drilling. That would protect the land until
    Congress can act on proposals to give the land permanent wilderness status,
    the groups hope.
    The BLM land lies throughout New Mexico, but the bulk of it is in the
    southern part of the state. It includes the Sierra Ladrones Wilderness Study
    Area, a rugged mountain range southwest of Albuquerque, and the Boca del Oso
    Wilderness Study Area Complex along the Rio Puerco Valley, west of the city.
    "The goal is to temporarily protect these areas," said Dan Smuts,
    spokesman for the National BLM Wilderness Campaign, one of the coalition
    The Wilderness Campaign also asked Babbitt to have the Bureau of Land
    Management reinventory its land to see what qualifies for wilderness
    protection. In New Mexico, the most recent BLM inventory identified only
    half of the land that should become wilderness, Smuts said.
    But Berrett Harrison, president of the New Mexico 4-Wheelers, an
    off-road vehicle club, called the proposal "ridiculous" and said new
    restrictions on access to BLM land aren't needed.
    "I just think it's a crock of baloney," Harrison said. "They're way
    overboard. Ninety percent of them don't even use the areas."
    Interior Department spokesman Michael Gauldin said BLM lands in Colorado
    and Utah already have been reinventoried. But he said redoing all the
    inventories "would divert our attention from some important conservation
    efforts the secretary has long had under way."
    "We think wilderness is important to preserve and that protecting as
    much of the nation's remaining roadless federal lands as is feasible is a
    worthwhile goal. That is why ... we will look at this petition carefully."
    The petition from the conservation coalition is the latest move in a
    national push to protect public land.
    President Clinton has added millions of acres to the national monuments
    and proposed new protection for large swaths of roadless areas in national
    On Wednesday, several national and local groups, including the New
    Mexico Wilderness Alliance, asked the Interior Department to take another
    step forward.
    The groups said wilderness areas are important for recreation and
    protection of biological diversity and archaeological resources.
    "Unfortunately, we've already lost two-thirds of our BLM wilderness
    lands in the continental U.S.," said Scott Groene, director of the National
    BLM Wilderness Campaign.
    "President Clinton and Secretary Babbitt can save what's left," Groene
    said. "It's urgent that they act now because we're losing areas every day to
    off-road vehicle abuse, oil drilling, mining and other destructive uses."
    Edward Sullivan, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness
    Alliance, said the petition to Babbitt is designed to "get the ball rolling"
    to protect wild areas.
    The alliance is working on its own inventory of BLM land in the state
    and plans to finish by this fall. Already, it has identified about 1.6
    million acres that it says deserve permanent wilderness protection.
    "There's a lot more we're going to add to that," Sullivan said.
    He called the BLM inventory "inadequate" and hopes a new survey by the
    agency would use the alliance proposal as a starting point.
    About 145,000 acres of BLM land already are designated as wilderness in
    New Mexico. Another 925,000 acres are wilderness study areas with temporary
    protection. Overall, the BLM manages 12.8 million acres of public land in
    New Mexico.
    New Mexico BLM Director Michelle Chavez said that since the inventory of
    study areas was completed in the early to mid-1980s, some changes to the
    land have happened, and some areas also have been reclaimed.
    "The inventory we've done is old, and likely in some instances,
    conditions have changed," she said. But she added: "I'm not sure doing a
    reinventory would get us anything significantly different."
    Chavez said there's not much she can do to put in place a sweeping
    protection of roadless areas without direction from Babbitt's office.
    Sullivan said he hopes the petition will accomplish that.

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