Distributed by Penny Hill Press
History of Release Language,
Ross W. Gorte, Specialist
Environment and Natural Resources Policy Division
Pamela Baldwin, Legislative Attorney
American Law Division
HISTORY OF RELEASE LANGUAGE, 1979-1992
In 1979, the Forest Service completed a nationwide review of potential
national forest wilderness areas, and presented recommendations to Congress
for additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System. The adequacy of
this study in meeting NEPA requirements was challenged successfully in court.
Congress responded to the court decision, and the potential for additional wilderness studies, by developing release language that: 1)prevents judicial review
of the first round of Forest Service analysis of wilderness potential; 2) guides
the timing of future Forest Service wilderness reviews; and 3) provides for
managing undesignated, potential national forest wilderness areas prior to such
The continued relevance of release language has been questioned. Release
language has apparently been successful in preventing administrative appeals
and litigation based on the wilderness suitability reviews. However, the original
Forest Service wilderness review has been succeeded by recommendations in
national forest plans, and some argue that all planning decisions should be
subject to judicial review: and that it is difficult to insulate only the review of
wilderness suitability from judicial review, and not other decisions. Retaining
and modifying release language may also be appropriate, because there is no
direction for presenting wilderness recommendations from national forest plans
to Congress and because of questions over how long wilderness characteristics
must be protected.
Other agencies have also reviewed the wilderness suitability of their lands.
The management issues addressed in release language have not been relevant
for lands managed by the National Park Service or the Fish and Wildlife Service,
but may be relevant for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. In addition,
the BLM is required to protect the wilderness characteristics of the areas under
study "until Congress determines otherwise." Thus, some form of release language may be needed, especially for the BLM recommendations in 10 western
States that are pending before the President and Congress.
This report provides a history of several of the forms of release language
introduced since 1979, and examines whether release language is still relevant
TAELE OF CONTENTS
THE SECOND ROADLESS AREA REVIEW . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The RARE I1 Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The California Lawsuit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Crowell Re-Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
WILDERNESS BILL RELEASE LANGUAGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Hard Release Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
SoftReleaseLanguage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Compromise Release Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
THE FUTURE OF RELEASE LANGUAGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Arguments Against Release Language for the National Forests . . . . . 8
Arguments Favoring Release Language for the National Forests . . . . 9
Release Language and Interior Agency Lands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
HISTORY OF RELEASE LANGUAGE, 1979-1992
Wilderness areas are Federal lands that have been designated by Congress
as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Wilderness areas
generally have no roads or other facilities, and timber harvesting and many
other activities are prohibited or restricted in wilderness areas. Because such
activities are permitted on many Federal lands, decisions to designate -- and not
to designate wilderness areas -- can be controversial.
"Release language" has been included in many laws that designated national
forest wilderness areas. It was developed in the early 1980s during the debate
over Forest Service wilderness areas, principally because a lawsuit successfully
challenged the agency's wilderness suitability review. Release language has provided direction on Forest Service review of undesignated roadless areas and on
the management of such areas until the review and recommendations are final.
Release language is still part of the debate over wilderness designations, in
large part because statewide wilderness bills with release language have not
been enacted for two western States with substantial national forest roadless
areas (Idaho and Montana). Release language was a focus of debate over the
Montana National Forest Management Act of 1992 (S. 1696). Although release
language has to date generally been applied only to national forest lands, it
might also be relevant for other agencies, especially the Bureau ofLand Management, whose wilderness recommendations are pending before the President and
Congress. A review of the history that led to release language is essential to
understanding its possible relevance in the future.
Controversies over wilderness designation to date have generally focused
on the national forests, because national forest lands were the first Federal
lands managed under an administrative system of wilderness, and were the first
ones designated as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System by
Congress. The Forest Service established the first wilderness area in New
Mexico in 1924, and created an administrative system of wilderness, wild, and
primitive areas. Numerous external pressures, including congressional consideration of a statutory wilderness system, led the Forest Service to request (and
Congress to enact) the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (MUSYA),' to
recognize and maintain its discretion over land management (including administrative wilderness management). MUSYA states: "The establishment and main-
'Act of June 12, 1960, Pub.L. No. 86-517, 74 Stat. 215; 16 U.S.C. 528-531.
tenance of areas of wilderness are consistent with the purposes and provisions
of this Act."' Thus, MUSYA allows the Forest Service to retain undeveloped
lands, managed to preserve wilderness values.
Despite the provision in MUSYA, concerns about the permanence of the
Forest Service's administrative system led Congress to enact the Wilderness Act
in 1964.3 This Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System
(NWPS), with a n initial endowment of 9.1 million acres of national forest lands
that had been previously designated as wilderness administratively. The Act
also reserved to Congress the authority to designate future wilderness areas, but
directed the Secretary of the Interior to review the wilderness potential of large
roadless areas within the National Park and National Wildlife Refuge Systems,
and the Secretary of Agriculture to review the wilderness potential of the 5.5
million acres of administratively designated Forest Service primitive areas. The
Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA)*directed the Secretary of the Interior to review the roadless areas managed by the Bureau of Land
The Forest Service chose to expand the scope of the primitive area review
to include all National Forest System roadless areas greater than 5,000 acres.
This study, the Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE), began in June
1970 and included more than 12 million acres in 274 areas. However, the study
was criticized, because national forests in the East, national grasslands, and all
areas of less than 5,000 acres were excluded; a lawsuit challenged the study:
claiming that the exclusion of 44 million acres from the analysis violated the
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 ( N E P A ) The Forest Service abandoned RARE in 1972 without making any wilderness recommendations.
THE SECOND ROADLESS AREA REVIEW
The Forest Service began a second nationwide, state-by-state wilderness
study, RARE 11, in June 1977. The examination was broader in scope than the
first effort, including more than 62 million acres in 2,919 areas. In addition,
RARE I1 was carried out as an acceleration of the planning process mandated
'16 U.S.C. 529.
3 A ~of
t Sept. 3, 1964, Pub.L. No. 88-577, 78 Stat. 890; 16 U.S.C. 1131-1136.
4 A ~oft Oct. 21, 1976, Pub.L. No. 94-579, 90 Stat. 2743; 43 U.S.C. 1701, et al.
5 A ~of
t Jan. 1, 1970, Pub.L. No. 91-190, 83 Stat. 852; 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347.
Section 102(2) of NEPA requires Federal agencies: (A) to use an interdisciplinary approach in planning and decisionmaking; (B) to consider environmental
amenities and values; and (C) for "major Federal actions significantly affecting
the quality of the human environment," to prepare statements assessing the
environmental impacts of the action and alternatives to the action and to make
such statements available to the public.
for the national forests by the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources
Planning Act of 1974 (RPA) and the National Forest Management Act of 1976
(NFhEA).' This differed from the original RARE study, which was carried out
before Congress had provided direction for Forest Service land and resource
management planning. RARE I1 was also intended to meet the requirements of
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), and with public participation. Various alternatives and public comments were, thus, considered in
shaping the RARE I1 recommendations.
The RARE I1 Recommendations
The RARE I1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was issued on
January 1, 1979. Three categories were used to recommend the disposition of
the roadless areas: Wilderness, Further Planning, and Nonwildeiness. The
areas recommended for wilderness would be protected until Congress added the
areas to the NWPS.7 Areas recommended for nonwilderness would be available
for multiple-use management, and thus could be available for logging, livestock
grazing, motorized recreation, recreational facilities, and energy and mineral
development. While MUSYA recognizes that maintaining wilderness characteristics is consistent with multiple-use management, the regulations in effect a t
that time apparently directed only nonwilderness multiple-use management for
areas not designated.' Further planning areas would be restudied in national
forest planning, recommended either for wilderness or for nonwilderness, and
The RARE I1 FEIS recommended more than 15 million acres (nearly a
quarter of the RARE I1 study area) for wilderness and nearly 11 million acres
(17 percent of the RARE I1 area) for further planning. The other 36 million
6Respectively,Act ofAug. 17, 1974, Pub.L. No. 93-378, 88 Stat. 476, and Act
of Oct. 22, 1976, Pub.L. No. 94-588, 90 Stat. 2949; 16 U.S.C. 1600-1614, et al.
Together, these laws define a process and 15-year cycle for preparing: amending,
and revising integrated, multiple-use land and resource management plans for
units of the National Forest System.
7The Wilderness Act (Pub.L. No. 88-577) required the Forest Service to
protect the undeveloped character of the administratively designated primitive
areas until Congress designated or rejected the areas; today, only one primitive
area, the Blue Range in Arizona, remains neither designated nor released from
this direction in the Wilderness Act. For the other areas that the Forest Service
chose to review in RARE 11, an explicit rejection of wilderness designation was
not anticipated or believed necessary.
'See the discussion of the Forest Service regulation a t 36 C.F.R. 219.12(e)
(1981) in California v. Block, 690 F. 2d 753,762 (9th Cir. 1982). This regulation
was controversial, and presented an issue as to the management of areas classified as nonwilderness in RARE I1 that was ultimately resolved in the eompromise release language.
acres (58 percent of the RARE I1 area) were recommended for nonwilderness, to
be available for multiple-use management.
On April 16,1979, President Carter submitted his wilderness recommendations to Congress. The Carter Administration recommendations closely followed
the Forest Service recommendations, with less than 1 million acres shifted to
categories other than those recommended by the Forest Service. While the 96th
Congress enacted wilderness statutes based on some of these recommendations,
most remained pending after the 1980 election. Subsequently, the Reagan
Administration generally endorsed the Forest Service recommendations in its
The California Lawsuit
On July 25, 1979, the State of California sued the Forest Service. The
State argued that the RARE I1 FEIS did not meet the NEPA requirements for
47 areas in California that were recommended for nonwilderness, because the
agency did not adequately examine the effects of its decision on the wilderness
quality of the individual areas.
On January 8, 1980, a U.S. district court held that the RARE I1 FEIS
violated NEPA.' The judge found that the document did not contain adequate,
site-specific analysis of: 1)the wilderness values foregone in recommending that
the areas be available for development, or 2) the impacts of potential development. He also found that the alternatives were "heavilyskewed towards development", and the Forest Service "effectively undercut the possibility of serious
public participation in its decisionmaking process." Finally, the judge enjoined
the Forest Service from any activities which would alter the wilderness values
of those 47 areas.
The Forest Service appealed the U.S. district court decision. On October
22, 1982, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the lower court's
decision. The appeals court reversed the lower court's finding with respect to
the agency's public participation process, but upheld the findings that: 1)the
FEIS was inadequately site-specific on wilderness values and the impacts of
potential development, and 2) the range of alternatives was too narrow. The
appeals court also upheld the injunction preventing development in RARE I1
areas recommended to be available for development.
The Crowell Re-Evaluation
As a result of the Ninth Circuit Court ruling, Assistant Secretary of
Agriculture for Katural Resources and Environment John Crowell directed the
Forest Service to re-evaluate all RARE I1 recommendations on February 1,1983.
This new wilderness review was to be conducted within the ongoing RPAiNFMA
planning for the national forests. However, Crowell also announced that the
gCalifornia u. Bergland, 483 F. Supp. 465 (E.D. Cal. 19801, a r d inpart, reu'd
in part, sub nom. California v. Block, 690 F. 2d 753 (9th Cir. 1982).
national forests in a State would be exempt from the re-evaluation, if Congress
had enacted a statewide bill with language that: 1)precluded judicial review of
the RARE I1 recommendations; 2) addressed the timing of future wilderness
reviews; and 3) guided management of the areas in the interim.
Two aspects of the re-evaluation were controversial. One was whether all
RARE 11recommendations should be re-evaluated. Environmentalists felt that
the re-evaluation should be limited to areas recommended for nonwilderness,
since the California lawsuit only involved such areas. However, the Forest
Service argued that it might be vulnerable to lawsuits from commodity-oriented
user groups if recommendations for wilderness also were not evaluated.
The second controversial aspect was the decision to allow development
already planned for RARE I1 areas recommended for nonwilderness, except for
the areas under the court injunction. Some groups asserted that the injunction
should be extended to all RARE I1 areas, halting development until the reevaluation was completed. The Forest Service argued that only a limited area
would be affected and that there was no congressional support for a moratorium
on development. However, the Forest Service agreed to prevent development in
areas designated in any wilderness bill that had passed either House of Congress
until a law was signed or the bill died.
WILDERNESS BILL RELEASE LANGUAGE
The California lawsuit raised concerns about the legality of development in
areas recommended for nonwilderness. After the RARE I1 FEIS was issued,
numerous wilderness bills were introduced in the House and in the Senate, and
several included release language. One provision was to prevent judicial review
of the RARE I1 recommendations where Congress had examined the recommendations and decided which areas to designate as wilderne~s.'~The release
language provision concerningjudicial review of the RARE I1 recommendations
was not controversial a t the time, and only one version has been enacted in the
numerous wilderness statutes.
Release language also addressed: 1)the timing of future wilderness reviews
(under RPAINFMA planning), and 2) the management of areas not designated
as wilderness, pending future review. Several versions of release language have
been considered by Congress since the RARE 11FEIS was issued; the two initial
versions, developed in 1980, have been referred to as hard and soft release, with
compromise release language developed in 1984.
''This provision is often called sufficiency language, but this term can be
misleading. This provision clearly expresses Congress's view that RARE I1 was
sufficient for congressional purposes, "without passing on the question of the
legal and factual sufficiency of the RARE 11 final environmental statement."
The operative language, however, was that limiting judicial review.
Hard Release Language
Hard release language is, generally, proscriptive. Several versions of hard
release were developed, with varying levels of restrictiveness. The first was
developed in 1980, shortly after the decision in the California lawsuit, with a
more restrictive version developed in 1982, and a somewhat less restrictive
version in the Wyoming bill i n 1983. The latter version is the only one to have
passed the Senate, but no version of hard release has passed the House.
Hard release would have prohibited further reviews of the wilderness
potential of national forest lands for a t least several years. The most restrictive
version would have prohibited all future reviews of the wilderness potential of
national forest lands, thereby limiting the consideration of wilderness suitability
solely to RARE 11; other versions would have prohibited further wilderness
review in planning efforts completed or begun before a specified date.
The range of management of lands not included in the Wilderness System
by Congress would also have been restricted under hard release. Most versions
directed that lands not designated as wilderness (or wilderness study areas) be
managed for uses other than wilderness, a position reflected in the then-current
regulations. (In addition, the initial version would have directed such management for areas recommended for further planning in RARE 11, unless Congress
had designated them wilderness by a specified deadline.) This direction would
apparently have prohibited administrative wilderness management of areas not
designated by Congress and, arguably, directs the Forest Service to attempt to
seek development of all undesignated areas.
Hard release language thus implicitly would have amended MUSYA, RPA,
and NFMA by narrowing the options authorized for national forest management. As noted above, MUSYA stated that wilderness protection is authorized
under multiple-use management, and the R P M F M A planning process is to be
consistent with MUSYA. Thus, by preventing the Forest Service from considering wilderness protection, hard release restricts the planning and management
options authorized in MUSYA, RPA, and NFMA.
Soft Release Language
Soft release language is more permissive than hard release, and allows the
continuation of processes and management choices under current law. The sole
version of soft release evolved during the 1980 debate over national forest
wilderness designations in California, and was enacted in statewide bills for
Alaska, Colorado, and New Mexico in 1980 and for Indiana, Missouri, and West
Virginia in 1982.
Under soft release, the Forest Service was not required to re-evaluate the
wilderness potential for areas recommended for nonwilderness in RARE 11 until
the R P M F M A plans were revised. Since the plans must be revised within 15
years, this was expected to allow 10 to 15 years of management for such lands
without further wilderness review. This language was intended to make the
wilderness review part of the R P m F M A planning process. Soft release aIso
prohibited statewide national forest wilderness reviews, again with the intent
of assuring that future wilderness reviews would be done within the RPA/NFMA
planning for each unit.
Soft release would also allow the Forest Service to manage the lands not
designated as wilderness for uses other than wilderness under the initial RPN
NFMA plans. However, the agency could also protect the wilderness characteristics of those areas, if that management strategy was chosen in the planning
process. Again, the intent was to allow the full range of management options
authorized in MUSYA and determined in RPA/NFMA planning.
Compromise Release Language
Development interests felt that the soft release language developed in 1980
did not provide some of the protection they felt was needed. They generally
desired greater limits on future Forest Service wilderness reviews, and were
concerned about perceived loopholes that could be used to require new wilderness reviews within a few years.
Negotiations between Senator James A. McClure (then Chairman of the
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee) and Representative John F.
Seiberling (then Chairman of the National Parks and Public Lands Subcommittee of the House Interior Committee) resolved most of the industry ckcerns,
and a compromise was announced in May 1984. The compromise modified soft
release to clarify statutory direction on two points. One point was to clarify
what constitutes a "revision" of the initial R P m F M A plans, and hence of the
timing at which additional wilderness reviews must be conducted.
The other point was that lands not designated as wilderness would be
managed for multiple use, under MLiSYA and through RPABFMA planning;
the wilderness characteristics of areas not designated "need not" be preserved,
but could be protected if the Forest Service chose to do so in its planning
process. The report by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on
the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984 confirmed that Congress intended to allow
undeveloped management for undesignated areas, if the Forest Service decided
on such management through the RPAiNFMA planning process."
Public statements by Members of Congress and interest groups described
the compromise as providing a t least some of the certainty about the future use
of "released" areas that industry groups sought. The wood products industry
stated that the compromise met their immediate needs, and Senator McClure
noted that the compromise resolved the problems and stated that the compromise release language would be used in all wilderness legislation.
The compromise release language opened the floodgates for wilderness
legislation in the 98th Congress. Statewide wilderness bills were enacted for the
"S. Rept. 98-463, 98th Cong., 2nd Sess. (1984) a t 29.
national forests in 18 states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia,
Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee,
Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Except
for the designations in Alaska in 1980 (which tripled the Wilderness System),
the wilderness designations by the 98th Congress were the largest addition to
the Wilderness System since its creation in 1964.
THE FUTURE OF RELEASE LANGUAGE
The continued relevance of release language has been questioned by some
observers. Release was primarily intended to insulate the RARE I1 FEIS from
judicial review and permit the Forest Service to not reevaluate the RARE I1
recommendations in the initial RPANFiMA plans for the national forests. The
RARE I1 study is now irrelevant, however, because the RARE I1 recommendations have been superseded by recommendations made in the initial round of
RPGR'FMA plans. Furthermore, only two States (Idaho and Montana) have
sizable national forest roadless areas but no statewide release language. Similar
release language has not been broadly applied to the lands managed by Interior
Department agencies, because the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife
Service have not conducted comprehensive studies analogous to the RARE
studies, and BLM wilderness recommendations have not been successfully
challenged. Thus, the need for release language in the future is in doubt.
Arguments Against Release Language for the National Forests
Three arguments have been offered against continuing to enact compromise
release language or some modification of it. The first is that the standard
version is out-of-date, a t least for the national forests. Release was intended to
permit the Forest Service to avoid reviewing again the wilderness characteristics
of areas not designated as wilderness during the initial RPA!NFMA plans for
each national forest in the relevant State, because RARE I1 accomplished that
task. However, the initial plans have now been completed, and some national
forests are beginning the first revision of their RPA/NFMA plans. Reviewing
the suitability of roadless areas -- for inclusion in the National Wilderness
Preservation System or for administrative management to maintain the areas
in an undeveloped state -- is a part of the planning process, and compromise
release language expressly directs wilderness review during RPAiNFMA plan
The second argument against retaining and modifying the compromise
release language is that wilderness recommendations should not now be exempt
from <iudicial review. All other aeencv
" actions and decisions, made under RPA!
NFMA planning for the Forest Service, are subject to administrative appeals and
"iudicial review. and it is armed that wilderness recommendations should also
be subject to challenges and review. Furthermore, while the Wilderness Act
required protection of existing primitive areas until Congress determined otherwise, only the Blue Range Primitive Area in Arizona has been neither designated
as wilderness nor released from this requirement.
The third argument against modifying sufficiency and release language is
the difficulty in developing alternative legislative language that precludes
judicial review of only the wilderness suitability recommendations in the R P N
NFMA plans, and not of other decisions in the plans. It was relatively simple
to insulate the RARE I1 FEIS from judicial review, because RARE I1 was a
separate study that reviewed only wilderness suitability. The RPA/NFMA plans,
however, include many other land allocations and decisions about management
emphases in addition to wilderness suitability determination. Exempting such
decisions from judicial review would substantially amend the R P M F M A
process for public participation in and oversight of agency decisionmaking, and
would go far beyond the scope of release language to date. For example, some
were concerned that the language in the Montana National Forest Management
Act of 1992 (as passed by the Senate) could be interpreted to exempt decisions
beyond the wilderness suitability recommendations in the RPA/NFMA plans for
the national forests in Montana. At a minimum, developing language acceptable
to all interests has proven difficult.
Arguments Favoring Release Language for the National Forests
There are basically three arguments favoring retaining and modifying the
compromise release language. First, no direction currently exists for presenting
wilderness recommendations to Congress as part of the planning process. The
Forest Service has apparently been sending copies of its RPA/NFMA plans,
which contain wilderness recommendations in a variety of formats, to the appropriate committees of Congress; however, the wilderness recommendations in the
plans are often dificult to discern from the masses of data and maps identifying
the management direction for the entire national forest. Establishing a system
for presenting Congress with recommendations from future wilderness reviews
appears to be a suitable topic for wilderness legislation.
The second argument for retaining and expanding release language is the
question of how long wilderness characteristics must be protected. No time
period is currently specified for protecting the wilderness characteristics of areas
recommended for wilderness, but not designated by Congress; presumably, such
areas will be protected at least until the R P m F M A plans are revised and the
wilderness suitability is reviewed again. Because the decision about which areas
to designate is made by Congress, some question whether the Forest Service will
be able to develop areas recommended for multiple-use management without
additional clarifying language. This presumption may be warranted based on
the California lawsuit, but it is unclear that reviews of wilderness suitability in
the RPAiNFMA plans would be found inadequate in the same ways that the
RARE I1 FEIS was found inadequate. In the only case to date on Forest Service
wilderness recommendations in RPAAVFMA plans without release language, the
court found that the Forest Service review was adequate, even though only 4 of
47 roadless areas in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest were recommended
'21daho Conservation League v. Mumma, 956 F. 2d 1508 (9th Cir. 1992).
The third argument for retaining and modifying release language is that
release language has apparently worked as intended. No Forest Service actions
have been stopped by administrative appeals or litigation in roadless areas that
have been released, under either soft or compromise release, because of the
inadequacies of the review of wilderness suitability.I3
Release Language and Interior Agency Lands
As noted above, release language was developed during the consideration
of national forest wilderness bills. With a limited exception, release language
has not been applied to lands managed by agencies of the U.S. Department of
the Interior. The management issues addressed by release have not arisen for
National Park System and National Wildlife Refuge System lands, because these
lands are managed to preserve particular uses and values, as specified in the
enabling legislation for each area, and many of the uses proscribed by wilderness
designation have already been prohibited on these lands.
Some form of release language may be relevant for roadless lands managed
by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). As with the national forests, BLM
lands are managed for multiple uses, some of which conflict with preserving the
wilderness characteristics of roadless areas. FLPMA requires land use plans for
BLM lands, and §603(c) directed a n initial review of the wilderness suitability
of BLM lands.14 However, BLM's land use plans are not required to be cyclical
or on a definite time frame, as is specified for the RPA/NTMA plans. Thus, no
clear direction is provided as to future reviews of wilderness suitability. Such
direction has been one of the two key elements of release language for the
The other key element of release language for the national forests has been
the direction on management of roadless areas. Section 603(c) specifies that the
wilderness characteristics of the BLM areas under review are to be protected,
"until Congress has determined otherwise." Thus, some version of release language may be necessary for the BLM to permit development of the roadless
areas that have not been recommended for wilderness or that were recommended
but not designated by Congress.
One version of release language has been enacted for particular areas. This
version "releases" the BLM from the §603(c) requirement to protect wilderness
characteristics of roadless areas. It was first enacted for several Montana areas
13Thisis not to suggest that all activities in roadless areas have proceeded,
but only that flaws in the wilderness review have not been the basis for any
14Thedefinition of multiple use in 5103(c) of FLPMA does not expressly state
that wilderness management is a recognized use, but includes "natural scenic,
scientific, and historical values" in a non-limiting list of resources.
in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Act of 1983,15and was then enacted for certain
BLM lands in the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984.l"he
version has also been
applied statewide to BLM roadless lands in the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act
of 1990;176102 of that Act states:
. . . . the Congress hereby finds and directs that all public lands in
Arizona, administered by the Bureau of Land Management pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 not
designated as wilderness by this title, or previous Act of Congress,
have been adequately studied for wilderness designation pursuant
to section 603 of such Act and are no longer subject to the requirement of section 603(c) of such Act pertaining to the management
of wilderness study areas in a manner that does not impair the
suitability of such areas for preservation as wilderness.
This version of release does not address the other management issues debated
in release language for national forest roadless areas -- the timing of future
wilderness suitability reviews and management of potential wilderness areas in
The question of release language may arise in future BLM wilderness bills.
To date, the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990 is the only statewide BLM
wilderness bill enacted. However, as required by FLPMA, the BLM presented
its wilderness recommendations to the president by October 21,1991. President
Bush submitted wilderness recommendations for ELM lands in California in
1991 and for Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming in 1992;
President Clinton is required to submit the remaining BLM wilderness recommendations (for Alaska, Colorado, and Montana) by October 21, 1993. Release
language may be debated as Congress considers ELM wilderness legislation in
"Act of Oct. 31, 1983, Pub.L. No. 98-140, 97 Stat. 901.
16Actof Aug, 28, 1984, Pub.L. No. 98-406, 98 Stat. 1485.
17Actof NOV.28, 1990, Pub.L. No. 101-628, 104 Stat. 4469.