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PNS Daily Newscast - September 18, 2020 

A federal judge slams the brakes on U.S. Postal Service changes nationwide; and we take you to the state 'out front' for clean elections.

2020Talks - September 18, 2020 

Trump slams the 1619 project on Constitution Day, and Pennsylvania's Supreme Court makes some election changes.

New Push on to Reverse Bush “No More Wilderness” Policy

December 9, 2009

PHOENIX - Arizona could see vast new federal wilderness areas if a Bush administration policy is reversed. Under a 1976 law, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had identified just over five percent of its 262 million acres of public lands as potential wilderness, until the process was halted by former Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

Today, groups like the Campaign for America's Wilderness (CAW) are pushing to restore the original policy. CAW Director Mike Matz says they are anxious for the BLM to resume its "wilderness inventories," the practice of identifying lands for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

"We are anxiously awaiting word here from the Interior Department whether or not Secretary Ken Salazar will revise this policy, overturn it, or somehow enable BLM to be able to go out and do its job under the law."

Lands picked by BLM as Wilderness Study Areas are protected until Congress decides whether they should be officially declared wilderness. Matz says there are millions of acres in the West that qualify.

In Arizona, says Kevin Gaither-Banchoff of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition, there are potential wilderness areas just an hour's drive west of Phoenix, with names like Yellow Medicine Butte, Face Mountain and Saddle Mountain.

"They're beautiful, pristine or fairly pristine northern Sonoran Desert, clearly going to be threatened and impacted as Phoenix continues to grow and you have pressures - like increased recreational pressures - put on the land, demand for new roads, new power lines."

Contrary to popular belief, says Matz, designating lands as federal wilderness does not put them completely off-limits to people - and instead, provides numerous opportunities.

"Hunting and fishing, horseback riding, camping, canoeing, rafting, any of those kinds of non-intrusive recreational activities. And obviously these areas are important for wildlife habitat, clean water, clean air."

Matz says up to 9 million acres of land in Utah could qualify for wilderness study, with easily four to five times that much in Alaska.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ