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Budget Deal Blocks Obama Wilderness Policy

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AP File

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan budget deal that avoids a government shutdown would block an Obama administration plan to make millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West eligible for federal wilderness protection.

Republican lawmakers had complained that the wilderness plan would circumvent Congress's authority and could be used to declare a vast swath of public land off-limits to oil-and-gas drilling.

An agreement reached Friday night prohibits the Interior Department from spending money to implement the wilderness policy, which Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in December. Salazar's plan would reverse a Bush-era policy and make millions of acres of public lands eligible for wilderness protection. The so-called wild lands plan replaces a 2003 policy – dubbed by critics as "No More Wilderness – that opened Western lands to commercial development.

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