from Wyoming News Network

Opinions are running strong after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced restoration of B-L-M authority to inventory areas as “wild lands” for possible recommendation to Congress for consideration as wilderness.

Some government and industry officials are against the move, citing concerns that oil and gas projects could be delayed.

Rancher Bill Eikenberry in Wheatland is a former associate state B-L-M director. He takes issue with that argument, because since 1982, more than 230-million acres of public lands have been released for energy development leasing… yet most of that land has yet to be drilled.

"Not only does industry have a great amount of public land available to drill that has already been cleared for drilling, they are way behind on using the permits that they already have."

The Rev. Warren Murphy with the Wyoming Association of Churches has long advocated for recognizing and preserving spiritual and cultural qualities of public lands. He points to another issue that may have been overlooked which he thinks sets up a win-win - because once the inventory is done, it could pave the way for more development.

"What that does, is release the rest of the designated areas that have been studied, for general use. Which takes it off the wilderness approach."

About 220-million acres of lands would be reviewed for wilderness qualities under the policy. A Department of Interior spokesman said last week that all concerns would be considered.