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Outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar responds to Wyoming delegation on Blueways

Promises no Blueways designations in Wyoming without written state agency support.

April 9, 2013

Today, U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis, all R-Wyo., responded to a commitment made by Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that his Department would not designate watersheds as Blueways without first receiving a letter of support from each state that is home to the watershed.

The delegation received the attached letter from Secretary Salazar on March 22, 2013. This letter is in response to a February letter from the Wyoming delegation expressing concern over the potential designation of entire Wyoming watersheds as federal “Blueways,” a new designation created by a Secretarial Order. The order does not require the federal government to notify the public or allow them to comment on proposed designations. Of concern to the Wyoming delegation was the creation of a new federal waterway designation without Congress’ approval, its potential impact on water rights and use, and the lack of a public process prior to designation.

“The use of Secretarial Orders to push new land or water designations is inappropriate in and of itself, but Secretary Salazar’s commitment to requiring state approval is a good first step.” said Lummis. “Wyoming knows and cares about its land and water more than the federal government ever could, and we see evidence of that every day on the ground in Wyoming. What may seem like a harmless federal designation today could have significant impacts down the road on water rights, responsible development, and locally-determined conservation efforts. The Secretary’s commitment, if honored by his successors, will ensure Wyoming has final say over whether we allow the Blueways designation within our borders.”

“Wyoming has learned over the years that when the federal government wants to designate something there are always strings attached,” said Enzi. “I appreciate Sec. Salazar’s commitment to letting Wyoming manage its own water and look forward to ensuring these commitments are honored under the Secretarial Order.”

“Outgoing Interior Secretary’s commitment to Wyoming is a positive step,” said Barrasso. “While I appreciate his response, the Secretarial Order as written still circumvents Congress and allows federal agencies to nominate areas for designation. We plan to hold future Interior Department officials to Secretary Salazar’s criteria.”

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