‘Wild Lands’ policy goes into effect

The Bureau of Land Management started prioritizing “Wild Lands” last week. In an about-face to a Bush-era policy, the agency is now designating areas with wilderness characteristics as Wild Lands and managing them to preserve those values. Nonetheless, the policy has already gone into the crosshairs on Capitol Hill.

“Americans love the wild places where they hunt, fish, hike and get away from it all, and they expect these lands to be protected wisely on their behalf,” said Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. “This policy ensures that the lands of the American public are protected for current and future generations to come.”

Though it manages more public land than any other federal agency – more than 245 million acres – the BLM has not had a wilderness policy since 2003. At that time, the BLM’s wilderness management guidance was revoked as part of a controversial out-of-court settlement between the Bush Administration and the State of Utah.

BLM Director Bob Abbey noted that the policy affirms his agency’s responsibility to protect the wilderness characteristics of land that it manages. “This is a common sense approach that also makes sound economic sense,” he said. “Last year, hunting, fishing, and other recreational uses of BLM lands generated $7.4 billion for local economies throughout the West.”

The Wild Lands policy earned instant accolades from the outdoor and conservation communities. “This Wild Lands policy is needed and important to give the BLM and the public a way to acknowledge the values of our wildest public lands,” said Nada Culver of the Wilderness Society.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance also applauded the order, noting that it has the potential to give protection to 6 million acres of wilderness-quality lands in Utah alone.

“This is a long overdue step to protect amazing wilderness lands in Utah and across the West,” said Stephen Bloch, energy program director for SUWA. “With this order, Secretary Salazar is ensuring that the nation’s wilderness resource is on equal footing with other resources such as oil, gas and mining.”

But not everyone was happy with the change. Industry alleges that the policy will lock up public land and prevent development of resources. As a result, the House Natural Resources Committee held hearings on public lands drilling policy this week.

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, has also objected loudly to the new order. “This decision will seriously impact the West and will add to the economic uncertainty and distress that has been hindering job creation in our area,” he said. “We all value our public lands but this is another example of Washington-knows-best mentality.”

However, proponents of disagree. Matthew Garrington, of the energy watchdog group the Checks and Balances Project, noted that industry has been playing a wait-and-see game with public land.“We have 30 million acres leased for oil and gas development in the Intermountain West, and industry is just sitting on two-thirds of those,” he said. “If anyone is locking up our public lands, it is industry. It amounts to a speculative land grab.”

Amy Goodman to return to Durango

Durango will get a first-hand taste of “Democracy Now!” this weekend. Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of the program, will return to Durango this Sun., March 6. Her talk is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the Smiley Theatre with live broadcasts on DCAT channel 22 and KDUR, 91.9 & 93.9 FM.

Goodman, who was last in Durango in 2004, is on tour to help raise awareness, critical funds and public support for independent journalism and public broadcasting. As Congress debates whether to defund public media, Goodman will discuss the importance of independent media, uncompromising journalism and the vital role played by community media in these trying times.

The event is free with a suggested $10 donation to benefit  DCAT and KDUR. Tickets are available at Maria’s Bookshop, KDUR and DCAT.

Goodman is an award-winning investigative journalist and the author of fourNew York Timesbestsellers, including her latest book, Breaking the Sound Barrier. She is also the first journalist to receive the Right Livelihood Award, widely considered the “alternative Nobel Prize” for “truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by mainstream media.”

“Democracy Now!” airs on KDUR, DCAT and more than 900 stations worldwide.

Durango-Dallas connection in works

Locals will be able to blast off for one of the nation’s largest air travel hubs in coming months. American Airlines will start daily nonstop service between Durango La-Plata County Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport beginning June 9. American Eagle Airlines, American’s regional affiliate, will fly one round trip daily using a 50-seat Embraer jet aircraft.

The move should be beneficial to Durangoans and Texans alike, according to Gary Foss, vice president of marketing and planning for American Eagle. “We are pleased to introduce daily jet service to Durango from our largest hub, Dallas/Fort Worth,” he said.  “Whether it’s world-class skiing in the winter or exploring the magnificent San Juan Mountains in the summer, visitors from around the world will have greater access to Southwest Colorado on American. And our customers from the Four Corners region will soon enjoy convenient connections in DFW to destinations throughout world.”

The flights will depart from Durango at 11 a.m. and arrive in Dallas at 1:55 p.m. every day. The return flight leaves Dallas at 9:25 a.m. and gets into Durango at 10:25 a.m.

American Eagle operates more than 1,500 daily flights to more than 170 cities throughout the United States, Canada, the Bahamas, Mexico and the Caribbean on behalf of American Airlines.

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

March 17, 2022
Critical condition

Lake Powell drops below threshold for the first time despite attempts to avoid it

March 17, 2022
Uphill climb

Purgatory Resort set for expansion but still faces hurdles

March 10, 2022
Mind, body & soul (... and not so much El Rancho)

New health care studio takes integrated approach to healing