Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Good News for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey took an important step toward protecting wilderness values on BLM lands. If you are a backcountry angler or hunter you should be glad they did.

Wild lands are important venues for those of us who fish and hunt. They are where you have to earn access by a bit of effort. They are also the bedrock of important habitat.

Secretarial Order 3310

The BLM has not had a national wilderness policy since 2003. An out-of-court settlement between then-Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, the State of Utah, and others lead to the revocation of wilderness management guidance in the agency’s handbook.

According to the BLM release, “The Secretarial Order 3310 directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), based on the input of the public and local communities through its existing land management planning process, to designate appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its jurisdiction as “Wild Lands” and to manage them to protect their wilderness values.”

The order also “directs the BLM to maintain a current inventory of public lands with wilderness characteristics, which will contribute to the agency’s ability to make balanced, informed land management decisions, consistent with its multiple-use mission.”

The Economics

I rarely miss an opportunity to push the conservation equals opportunity equals economic activity message. It is wonderful to see Secretary Salazar make those points in his announcement in Denver last week.

“The wild backcountry here in Colorado, and across the West, is also a huge economic engine for local communities. Outfitters, guides, hotels, restaurants, and retailers like this one all have a stake in the protection of America’s great outdoors.

Wise stewardship isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s good for business and it’s good for jobs,” said Salazar.

Other Voices

My favorite response so far is from Chris Hunt on his ever-wonderful Eat More Brook Trout Blog.

“Hey, it’s really pretty simple. Habitat equals opportunity. Without one, you really don’t have the other (unless you’re dunking worms in a pay-by-the-pound trout pond or “hunting” behind a high fence, that is). Fortunately, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar understands this most basic of equations–today, he announced that the Bureau of Land Management would once again consider high-quality federal land for potential wilderness designation,” writes Hunt.

Trout Unlimited and The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership both had laudatory comments pointing out the important conservation impacts.

“Interior’s announcement will require the BLM to analyze the fish, wildlife and water values of backcountry areas before allowing development activities that could otherwise impair them,” TU’s CEO Chris Wood said. “This is simply common sense applied to commonly-owned lands for the common good.”

“The clean waters and undisturbed fish and wildlife habitat provided by pristine public lands enable sportsmen to continue enjoying days afield,” said TRCP’s President Whit Fosburgh. “We commend the federal government’s efforts to permanently safeguard America’s finest backcountry lands and the outdoor opportunities they offer sportsmen all across the nation by taking this necessary action.”

Not everyone will be happy

No doubt there will be voices in opposition. It will be predictable from the extraction boys. What will be unfortunate is if some of our colleagues in the hunting and fishing community start to decry the lack of “access”. Hardly the case as Hunt points out.

“Indeed, the “controversy” surrounding wilderness (and wilderness study areas, for that matter) is largely due to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. My guess is that you’ll hear a few folks from the foam-at-the-mouth crowd talking about being “locked out” by wilderness, or that Salazar’s new policy restricts their “access” to public lands. That’s simply not true. In fact, very little–if anything–will change. It would be largely inconceivable for Salazar or BLM Director Bob Abbey to approve a new WSA that would alter existing uses, including those designated for motorized access,” writes Hunt.

Of course one man’s access is another man’s annoyance. I come down on the side of wilderness and wild lands. I don’t like machines around when I fish and hunt and will happily work hard to get to those places, the fishing and hunting is always better.

Thankfully those of us who spend our time in the wild lands can get a fair shake again.

More info courtesy of DOI

To read Secretarial Order 3310, click here.

To read the BLM’s draft guidance to its field managers for implementing the Secretarial Order, click here.

Q and A document can be found click here.

Secretary Salazar and Bob Abbey’s remarks as prepared can be found here:


  1. Indeed, my friend… indeed. But don’t worry–the foam-at-the-mouthers will be all over this, talking more about federal land grabs, locking the average guy out of the backcountry, and keeping Joe Sixpack and his ATV off public land (as is the average Joe is the guy with the ATV, the fifth-wheel and the $50k diesel).

    Thanks for posting on this… the more folks who learn to understand that protected land and habitat translates into greater opportunity–now and for generations to come–the better.

    Keep the faith, brother…


  1. […] Department of Interior regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s new guidance on wilderness. I covered that subject and won’t belabor the point. It will be interesting however to read the comments to […]

Speak Your Mind