Governor to Host BLM Director Bob Abbey, Wilderness on the Agenda

SALT LAKE CITY – At the direct request of Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert, Bob Abbey, Director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, is scheduled to meet with state officials this Friday. Abbey plans to meet with the Governor’s Balanced Resource Council to address questions regarding a controversial December 2010 Department of Interior announcement of a new Wild Lands designation.

“There was no policy discussion with the State. There was no formal notice this was being considered,” Governor Herbert said. “The federal government suddenly administratively locked up additional Utah lands without even consulting us and we want an explanation.”

The surprise designation of “Wild Lands” appears to violate a 2003 compromise between then-Utah Governor Mike Leavitt and Interior Secretary Gale Norton, where both agreed that the authority to designate federal lands as wilderness study areas had expired. The agreement recognized that 3.2 million acres of wilderness study areas, acreage managed by the BLM as if it is actual wilderness, would remain, and that other sensitive lands could be protected under other BLM authority.

The Governor is concerned the recent Interior announcement could jeopardize ongoing negotiations surrounding Utah’s wilderness. “We need to better understand what this decision means. It has real potential to forestall Utah’s ongoing efforts to resolve the wilderness issue,” he said.

Upon learning of the December 23, 2010, Interior announcement, entitled “Secretarial Order 3310,” Governor Herbert formally requested Abbey come to Utah to discuss the major change in federal wilderness policy and meet with his Balanced Resource Council. Under the leadership of Ted Wilson, the Governor’s senior advisor on environmental matters, the bi-partisan Balanced Resource Council prioritizes and recommends action on issues like public lands policy, water and air quality, and natural resources.

Friday’s Balanced Resource Council meeting will be held at 2 p.m. in room 210 of the Senate Building in the Utah State Capitol complex. A subsequent council meeting will be held following the meeting with Bob Abbey at 3:45 p.m.