As details of the budget deal brokered between President Obama and Congress emerge, one thing is clear: conservation was not a high priority for the President in negotiations. The budget deal that will likely pass into law this week eliminates all funding for the BLM's new Wild Land Policy, which the Obama Administration announced in December. As a reminder, the Wild Land secretarial order once again gave the BLM clear authority and direction to maintain an inventory of wilderness quality lands under their management. The outdoor industry celebrated after Interior Secretary Salazar announced the new policy (at the REI store in Denver). We all bent over backwards to thank the Administration, and to voice strong support for the order. We sent letters and signed oversized thank you cards. In March, Peter Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Black Diamond Equipment, testified before a hostile House Natural Resources Committee hearing in support of the policy.
Congressional Republicans were not as pleased with the policy, and immediately vowed to deny any funding to implement it. In the end, through the budget negotiations, Obama failed to defend the policy his own Interior Department worked so hard to develop. Assuming that deal passes this week, the BLM will have no funding to handle the inventories.
Conservation groups are vowing to rally public support to ensure that the Wild Land policy is funded in the 2012 budget.