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Idaho worries about new rules about wilderness use

Barack Obama’s Department of the Interior wants to make sure that public lands that could one day be protected as wilderness remain just as pristine as they are today.

If and when the feds decide that another use is more appropriate, they’ll release the lands then.

“It does not ‘lock up’ Western lands from other uses, as I am sure some people will claim,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

But the “Wild Lands” order that requires the Bureau of Land Management to identify and protect parts of the 245 million acres it manages in the West has rankled Western Republicans. They say it usurps the role of Congress, could override local decisions to free up lands from wilderness restrictions, and is being rushed in with little chance for public input.

Plus, the announcement came on Dec. 23 — after most members of Congress had gone home. And that makes folks skeptical.

They liken it to the widely attacked roadless initiative Bill Clinton’s Interior Department passed in 2001.

“It reflects the same type of top-down, one-size-fits-all management approach to which Idaho was subjected during the waning hours of the Clinton administration,” said Idaho Gov. Butch Otter.

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