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Legislative and Regulatory Update

• Interior appropriations
US Senator Conrad Burns (R-Montana) has gained approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee for a measure that would delay the recent hike in mining claim fees until the federal government develops a system to track mining permits and addresses the delays in obtaining mining permits. The measure was tacked onto the Interior Department appropriations bill (S 2804).

The House would also have to pass the measure. Don’t look for a conclusion anytime soon, as the Senate adjourned to campaign and won’t be back in action until November 16, and the bill may not reach a vote until December.

NMA director Laura Skaer called permit delays the “single biggest impediment to mining and exploration in this country.”

The Bureau of Land Management raised the yearly fee from $100 to $125 per mining claim on September 1, and hiked the initial filing fee from $25 to $30. The bill would reduce the fees and require refunds.

For federal land acquisition, the Senate and House are going different directions. The House approved $49 million with no additional money for new acquisitions, while the Senate committee approved $217 million to allow for additional purchases.


• New bull trout plan released
The US Fish & Wildlife Service released a new plan to address bull trout habitat that favors local conservation and preservation efforts over federal control.

The new recovery plan would designate approximately 1,750 miles of streams and 61,235 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Idaho, Washington and Oregon as critical habitat.

Federally designated critical habitat would drop to zero in Montana because Montana has demonstrated they can successfully handle bull trout habitat without federal intervention. Federally designated critical habitat for bull trout in that state was previously pegged at 3,300 stream miles and nearly 220,000 acres of lakes in 2002.

Reductions in other states were also significant.

In Oregon, the new plan would designate 706 miles of streams and 33,939 acres of lakes, down from nearly 4,000 stream miles and 78,000 lake acres in 2002.

In Washington, the new plan would designate 737 miles of streams and no lakes, down from 2,500 stream miles and 30,000 lake acres in 2002.

In Idaho, 306 miles of streams and 27,296 acres of lakes would be designated as critical habitat, down from nearly 9,000 stream miles and 205,000 lake acres in 2002.

The agency determined that Washington State’s Forest Practices Act provided conservation benefits for the bull trout in Washington that are “far superior to the benefits provided by a critical habitat designation,” said Craig Manson, assistant Interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks.

The new plan also takes into account vast areas covered by the federal Northwest Forest Plan, which Manson called a “long-standing, ongoing effort that adequately protects the habitat the bull trout needs.”

Additional information is available on the Internet at: http://species.fws.gov/bulltrout


• Comments needed
The deadline for commenting on the proposal for individual states to take over management of roadless areas is fast approaching. Comments are due by November 15, 2004.

Written comments may be sent to: Content Analysis Team, Attn: Roadless State Petitions, USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 221090, Salt Lake City, UT 84122; by fax to (801) 517-1014; or by email: statepetitionroadless@fs.fed.us

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to designate critical habitat for the southwestern willow flycatcher, a species of bird. The critical habitat would impose restrictions on 376,095 acres, including 1,556 miles of streams and riparian areas in southern California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, south-central Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Comments are due by November 26, 2004. Written comments can be sent to Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, US Fish and Wildlife Service, AZ Ecological Services Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ, 85021; faxed to (602) 242-2513; emailed to wiflcomments@fws.gov

The proposed rule is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov/freddocs/04-22394.htm

Those without Internet access can contact Steve Spangle at (602) 242-0210 for more information.
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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