Following the lead of Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Doth, the commission approved a resolution opposing relinquishing the power to create a national wilderness area to the Secretary of the Interior.

Doth called the DOI Secretarial Order 3310, a land grab, and contended Monday that only by action of the U.S. Congress with the signature of the President can a wilderness area be declared.

"At the end of January, the governor of Utah met with Secretary Ken Salazar to try to come to come compromise," Doth said. "They left with irreconcilable differences and it continues to be a problem, fighting the government. The Wilderness Alliance is intent on closing all public land to public access.

"It makes my blood boil."

Over the past 15 years, the environmental group continues to file lawsuits to close roads, to ban logging and to prohibit energy development, he said, citing an article about the Otero Mesa in a statewide newspaper that morning and the group's effort to fight any development there.

"I agree totally," said Commission Chairman Eileen Sedillo. "I'll jump on the soapbox too."

The resolution was approved unanimously.

Officials with the Wilderness Society view the situation differently.

"In late December, much of the conversation in the press and on Capitol Hill has centered on a few loud voices that stand in opposition to this Wild lands management guidance," they wrote in a prepared statement.

"These opponents are working to influence Washington, D.C., and now some members of Congress are targeting the Wild Lands policy in upcoming legislation.

"They are also threatening to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from implementing the policy by passing a 'funding limitation' through the 2011 and 2012 budget processes.

"In reality, though, there is deep-seated and growing support for the Wild Lands policy. As communities and elected officials learn more about the policy we are finding increased support for this management decision."

During the previous administration, the nation's public lands were under attack and conservation took a back-seat to oil and gas interest, they contended.

"Secretarial Order 3310 simply clarifies management authority and planning for Bureau of Land Management field offices," they wrote.

"In fact, identifying and protecting wilderness values has always been part of the BLM's mandate.

"Secretary Salazar's Order rectifies a radical departure in policy that actually prohibited the BLM from exercising its authority to designate and effectively protect wilderness study areas.

"This policy put places like Utah's redrock canyons, New Mexico's Otero Mesa, Oregon's Steens Mountain, Colorado's Roan Plateau, Arizona's Sand Tank Mountains, and Wyoming's Adobe Town at risk from destruction due to oil and gas drilling and off-road vehicle abuse."

They attached statistics showing that in the five Rocky Mountain states with the most oil and gas development, 1 percent of land managed by the BLM is designated Wilderness, while 42 percent of the BLM's land is leased to the oil and gas industry.

"Additionally, the oil and gas industry has 41 million acres under lease across the West, but is only drilling on 12 million acres. That means the industry is sitting on nearly 30 million acres of land, so there is clearly no shortage of places to drill."

They stated that outdoor active recreation, such as hiking, hunting, and rafting, contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy and supports nearly 6.5 million jobs.

"Economists have also found that rural counties with protected lands nearby, such as wilderness, experience greater economic growth than counties without," according to the Society.

The Lincoln County resolution notes that the Secretarial order is inconsistent with many local land use plans and that the county supports the multiple use of federal land, and the socio-economic benefits that accrue to state and local governments and the citizens they represent.

Commissioners contended in the resolution that the existing management practices are more than adequate to maintain naturalness and solitude through the protection of scenic vistas and identification of special management areas of critical concern.

They "strongly oppose" the secretary's order on the basis that it is "beyond the scope and contrary to the clear delineation of authority between the Congress and the Department of Interior, and that it has been adopted without respect for mandatory procedures."