PUBLIC LANDS -- The Obama administration is calling for 18 new wilderness and conservation area declarations in Idaho, Washington and seven other Western states, according to a report released Thursday by the secretary of the Interior.
The administration apparently hopes that significant local support that's already been generated for these areas will prompt a Congress that can’t agree on the simplest things to approve legislation establishing new land protections.
The proposals include creating San Juan Islands National Conservation Area in Washington and protections for the Jerry Peak Wilderness Study Areas in the Boulder-White Clouds region of central Idaho.
The areas have often been under consideration for advanced protection status for years, such as 406,000 acres of wilderness and conservation area proposed for the Sleeping Giant study along the Missouri River’s scenic Holter Lake in Montana.
Bureau of Land Management director Bob Abbey said there is room for more wilderness even as the BLM pushes for more oil, gas and other energy development on its land, the Associated Press reports. The agency pointed out that since 1964, only about 3.5 percent of the land it manages has been declared wilderness.
The proposal is the latest plank in what the administration is calling the America’s Great Outdoor’s initiative. Representatives from all 50 states were asked to identify specific projects in which the federal government could form partnerships as part of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The conservation plans are meant to protect public land, encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors and bolster employment in tourism and recreation.