Outgoing Interior Secretary Rescinds Wilderness Protection

david bernhardt speaks at hearing

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, as one of his last acts in office, rescinded an order from the Obama Administration that protects wilderness area, a move that may be reversed by his successor.

The 2010 order directed the Bureau of Land Management to promote the “protection of backcountry areas where Americans recreate, find solitude, and enjoy the wild,” according to The Hill.

Bernhardt signed a missive on Tuesday rescinding this order.

“That order is not mandated by any existing statutory or regulatory requirement,” reads Bernhardt’s directive.

However, the deputy director of the public lands watchdog group the Center for Western Priorities Aaron Weiss, noted that President Joe Biden’s nominee for the post, New Mexico Democrat Rep. Deb Haaland, could reverse the order as soon as she takes office.

“Secretary Bernhardt is throwing sand in the gears on his way out the door. He hates wilderness so much that he’s signing orders just so Deb Haaland can issue them again the moment she’s sworn in. This is regulatory vandalism.” 

Bernhardt on Tuesday also signed an order moving money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, specifically from the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program.

Kristine Stratton, the president and chief executive of the National Recreation and Park Association, ripped the decision as “an environmental injustice.”

She added, “In issuing this secretarial order, they have chosen to ignore the bipartisan Congressional intent and unilaterally end the” ORLP program, “which is a venerated grant program that helps to connect people in urban areas to crucial outdoor spaces, such as parks and playgrounds. This decision takes resources away from communities most in need of parks — especially communities of color and low-income communities.”

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.