In a memo to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Bob Abbey, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar confirmed Wednesday that, pursuant to the 2011 Continuing Resolution, the BLM will not designate any lands as Wild Lands, and outlined how the Department will work in collaboration with Members of Congress, states, tribes, and local communities to identify public lands that may be appropriate candidates for congressional protection under the Wilderness Act.

The protection of Americas wilderness for hunting, fishing, and backcountry recreation should be a unifying issue that mobilizes us to a common purpose, said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. We will focus our effort on building consensus around locally-supported initiatives and working with Members to advance their priorities for wilderness designations in their states and districts. Together, we can advance Americas proud wilderness legacy for future generations.

Outdoor Industry Association, which has been working closely with Salazar on several fronts, quickly blasted the decision as “a step backwards for the nation.”

The real losers in this decision are the American people and the communities that rely on outdoor recreation to support their local economies, said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of Outdoor Industry Association.  Outdoor recreation is a core component of balanced, sustainable economies in every community across the country.  Our nations wilderness and additional backcountry lands and waters-245 million acres of Wilderness just within BLM-are the essential infrastructure that allows Americans to hike, hunt, watch wildlife, camp and fish.

In the memo, Secretary Salazar directs Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes to work with the BLM and interested parties to develop recommendations regarding the management of public lands with wilderness characteristics.OIA said it will continue to work with the Obama administration and Congress on the development of policies protecting Wilderness and lands with wilderness characteristics to ensure that recreation is given equal consideration with traditional agricultural, timber and extractive industries for its ability to provide sustainable, domestic employment and balanced local economies.

Noting the longstanding and widespread support for the designation of wilderness areas, Salazar also directed Hayes to solicit input from members of Congress, state and local officials, tribes and federal land managers to identify BLM lands that may be appropriate candidates for Congressional protection under the Wilderness Act. Hayes will deliver a report to the Secretary and Congress regarding those areas.

In the memo, Salazar also confirmed that BLM must continue to meet its responsibilities under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), including the requirement that it maintain inventories of the public lands, their resources and other values that it manages.

The BLM currently manages 221 Wilderness Areas designated by Congress and 545 Wilderness Study Areas, comprising approximately 8.8 percent of the nearly 245 million acres managed by the BLM.

In December, 2010, Secretary Salazar issued Secretarial Order 3310, directing the BLM to use the public resource management planning process to gather public input and designate certain lands with wilderness characteristics as Wild Lands. On April 14, 2011, Congress passed the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011, which includes a provision that prohibits the use of appropriated funds to implement, administer, or enforce Secretarial Order 3310 in fiscal year 2011.