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Legislative and Regulatory Update

ANWR through Senate
The Senate passed a budget resolution on March 16 with an amendment attached to open drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Democrats attempted to block the ANWR amendment but failed on a 49 to 51 vote.
The measure will still have to pass through the House. The House passed the item on its own last year, but it died when the Senate failed to act before the end of the year.

Another amendment, designed to fund additional land acquisitions through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), made it through as an attachment. The rider was attached by Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The item would allow the creation of a $350 million account for the government to acquire more land. The item still has to pass in the House.

Several proposed bills up for comment
While miners and other hard working citizens have been busy tending to the everyday business of earning a living, environmentalists have been busy lobbying legislators to designate more public land off limits and to create historical trails and Heritage Areas across the United States.

These special designations often include provisions to remove authority over the land from publicly elected officials and place that authority in the hands of an appointed committee. As an example, Senate Bill 63 (S. 63) is a bill to establish the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area in the State of New Mexico. The bill states that management would be under the control of a non-profit corporation calling itself The Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area, Inc.

Environmentalists often dominate these committees. Many of these bills state that funds will be available to “make grants to, and enter into cooperative agreements with, a State (including a political subdivision), an Indian tribe, a private organization, or any person” and authorize funds to “hire and compensate staff.” These are very well designed schemes.

Removing public land from public use, placing additional restrictions on private land and adding paid positions to oversee these designated areas will increase taxpayer burdens by millions every year.

Following are a few of the pending bills that fall into this category. You can find the complete text of each bill online at http://thomas.loc.gov

I suggest you take some time to fire off a letter to your legislators and to the House Resources Committee. Your legislators can be located in the front section of your phone book or online. Letters to the House Resources Committee can be sent to: The Honorable Chairman Richard W. Pombo, House Resources Committee, 1324 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or faxed to: (202) 226-4631. Please make your comments constructive, or just send a postcard that indicates whether or not you support the bill.

H.R. 412. Would authorize a study to determine the feasibility of establishing the Western Reserve Heritage Area in Ohio. Sponsor: Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio.

H.R. 694. Would create a “heritage corridor” in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida to enhance the preservation of the Gullah/Geechee cultural heritage. Sponsor: Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina.

H.R. 233 & S 128. Would support a 300,000-acre coastal wilderness area in northern California. Sponsors: Rep. Mike Chrisman; Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein; all of California.

S. 63. Would establish a Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area in New Mexico. Sponsor: Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.

S. 74. Would designate a portion of the White Salmon River in Washington State as a Wild and Scenic River. Sponsor: Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington.

S. 152. Would “enhance ecosystem protection” in the Skykomish River valley in Washington State by designating federally controlled public lands as wilderness. Sponsor: Senator Patty Murray of Washington.

S. 153. Would direct the Secretary of Interior to conduct a study on the Rim of the Valley Corridor in southern California for possible resource protection. Includes areas in San Fernando, La Crescenta, Santa Clarita, Simi, and Conejo valleys. Sponsor: Senator Diane Feinstein of California.

S. 156. Would designate the previously studied Ojito Wilderness Study Area near Albuquerque, an area of public land currently under care of the Bureau of Land Management, as wilderness. Sponsor: Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.

S. 163. Would create the National Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area in Utah, impacting 43 different communities as currently written. Sponsor: Senator Robert F. Bennett of Utah.

S. 200. Would establish the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area in Georgia, and give management authority to the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance. Sponsor: Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

S. 204. Would create the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area in Louisiana, impacting 13 different parishes, and give management authority to the Atchafalaya Trace Commission. Sponsor: Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

S. 206. Would designate the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail across Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, reaching to the Pacific Ocean. Private and non-federal public lands “may be acquired from a willing seller.” Sponsor: Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington.
Additional bills look to create heritage areas and corridors in Vermont, New York, Arizona, Missouri, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

S. 263. The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act is back. It calls itself, “A bill to provide for the protection of paleontological resources on Federal lands.” Fortunately, the text of the bill, along with a copy of the letter we sent to the House Resources Committee, is still listed in the Pending Rules, Regulations, Projects section of our website. Visit www.icmj.com and scroll down a bit to find them, or refer to your July 2004 issue for the related article. The bill is sponsored by Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, along with eight cosponsors.

Okay, there is one good bill
S. 591 would limit the acquisition by the United States of land located in any State in which 25 percent or more of the land is already in government possession and control. The bill sponsor is Senator Thomas Craig of Wyoming, and cosponsoring Senators include Conrad Burns (Montana), Michael Enzi (Wyoming), Larry Craig (Idaho) and Ted Stevens (Alaska). Please let them know if you support this bill.
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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