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Conservationists charge US violates wilderness law

Conservationists charged Monday that the Interior Department is violating a law requiring that federal lands being studied for wilderness protection be protected until a decision is made.

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Representatives of the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society told a news conference that the lands, under the jurisdiction of the department's Bureau of Land Management, are instead subjected to development that scars the lands and may disqualify them from protective status.

''Interior is turning a blind eye to continued destruction of wilderness values of these lands by road building, mining operation, oil and gas drilling and other development activities,'' said Alice Elshoff, who spoke for the groups.

The charge was denied by the BLM, which said the department was in full compliance with the preservation requirements of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

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