A federal judge here yesterday temporarily halted additional mining or other commercial development on about 170 million acres of federal land that the Reagan administration had opened to private use.
The preliminary injunction, issued by U.S. District Court Judge John H. Pratt, came in a lawsuit filed by the National Wildlife Federation, which charged that the Interior Department had reclassified the previously protected land without proper planning and public comment.
Pratt agreed, saying that any change in how the land is used "could ruin some of the country's great environmental resources -- and not just for now but for generations to come."
The judge indicated that he would probably grant the Wildlife Federation's request for a permanent order requiring the administration to follow planning and comment procedures in the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act before more federal land can be opened to private development. He set another hearing for Jan. 6.
Kathleen C. Zimmerman, an attorney for the Wildlife Federation, said the group was "very pleased" with the court's action.
"We don't argue that all this land ought to remain closed," she said, "but we would like the [Interior Department's] Bureau of Land Management to do its land-use plans and allow the public to participate first . . . . They've done these [reclassifications] in secret without telling anybody."
The department had no comment last night.
BLM Director Robert F. Burford had said earlier that the blanket restrictions on development were lifted because they were unnecessary. The bureau contended that it had complied with the law and said that some development of federal land was desirable to enhance the nation's economy and national security.
The BLM controls about 340 million acres of federal land. Unlike with national parks and wilderness areas, however, development of this land is not barred by law.
Over the past 70 years, Zimmerman said, much of the federal land has been "withdrawn" by administrative designation from use for mining or other development to protect wildlife, preserve watersheds and allow camping and other recreational activity.
Pratt's order affects all federal land on which these protections have been revoked since the start of 1981.