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Legislative and Regulatory Update

• Comments needed for proposed wilderness in southern Arizona
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona) is seeking comments from interested parties prior to introducing legislation to Congress that would create an 85,000 acre Tumacacori Highlands wilderness area in southern Arizona.

Subscriber Mike Ryan, who notified us of the wilderness consideration, stated, “…The popular sites for Jesuit treasure and mines, many Spanish mines, and the Opata treasure area [could] be under the limitations of ‘protected wilderness’ rules and virtually off-limits for mining or prospecting, as well as recreational vehicles exceeding 1 horsepower of the four-legged kind.”

Interested readers can address constructive comments to:

Representative Raúl M. Grijalva
810 E. 22nd St., Suite 102
Tucson, AZ 85713
Fax (520) 622-0198.

Southern Arizona readers should also consider sending a constructive comment letter to local newspapers.

• Miner wins in court; Forest Service appeals
California miner and Public Lands for the People board member Don Eno prevailed in court against the US Forest Service and their attempt to prevent him from working his claim.

An administrative law judge rejected all of the government arguments, which included that the claim has no value, that the location is on sacred Maidu Indian lands, and that it is a scenic site worthy of protection.

Federal lawyers appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals, and Mr. Eno, represented by the Mountain States Legal Foundation, has now filed his opposition in the appeal.

MSLF chief legal officer William Perry Pendley stated, “The government has offered absolutely no evidence that it is entitled to a stay of the ruling by the administrative law judge; therefore, its motion must be denied. The government’s brief is a rehash of the arguments it made earlier, arguments that were rejected already. In fact, the brief does not even argue that the administrative law judge erred in his ruling…”

Mr. Eno owns the Hound Dog placer mining claim, which is located in the Plumas National Forest near Quincy, California, some 110 miles northeast of Sacramento. Since 1998, he has filed all appropriate paperwork and paid all necessary fees on the claim.

Because the land upon which his claim is located was withdrawn in 1927 for use as a “power site,” Mr. Eno had to obtain permission from the US Department of the Interior and show that extraction of the gold on his claim will not “substantially interfere with other uses of the land.”

That approval came in 2003.

He may yet face other hurdles, such as a challenge to the claim’s validity.

In an attempt to stop him from developing his claim, the federal government also asserted that the gold and travertine on the claim have no value and the land is more valuable for other uses.

Travertine is a form of massive calcium carbonate, often beautifully colored and banded as a result of the presence of iron compounds or other impurities. This material is known as calc-sinter and calcareous tufa, and (when used for decorative purposes) as onyx marble, Mexican onyx, and Egyptian or Oriental alabaster.

In his brief, Mr Eno pointed out that the travertine alone is worth $20 to $35 million dollars.

The administrative law judge rejected the federal government’s arguments on December 4, 2003, in a 26-page opinion. There is currently no date set for a ruling on the government’s appeal.

MSLF managing attorney Steven J. Lechner presented Mr. Eno’s case at the hearing and filed the briefs.

Editor’s Note:
Public Lands for the People and Mountain States Legal Foundation are two invaluable organizations that support public access, the right to own and use property, the 1872 Mining Law, and related issues. We support both of these organizations and encourage our readers to do the same.

Mountain States Legal Foundation
2596 South Lewis Way
Lakewood, Colorado, 80227
Phone: (303) 292-2021

Public Lands for the People
3700 Santa Carlotta St.
La Crescenta, California, 91214
Phone (818) 845-6377

• BLM directors held accountable
Oil and gas industry leaders expressed frustration with the failure of some Bureau of Land Management offices to expedite energy development applications.

BLM offices previously received instructional memorandums from the director, providing various options for expediting applications for permits to drill (APDs), as part of President Bush’s National Energy Policy.

After hearing that some offices were treating the instructional memorandums as “non-binding,” BLM is ordering state directors to file a written report detailing what steps their particular field office has taken to expedite APDs.

BLM state directors will apparently be held accountable for their action, or inaction, regarding expedited APDs.

• CBM lawsuit may change venue
A lawsuit filed by environmentalists and intended to block the development of coal bed methane in Wyoming may be transferred from Montana to Wyoming.

The environmentalists filed the lawsuit in Montana to take advantage of the environmentally friendly Ninth Circuit Court.

A change of venue to Wyoming, sought by the oil and gas industry, the federal government, and the state of Wyoming, would put the case under the jurisdiction of the less liberal Tenth Circuit Court.

Magistrate Judge Richard Anderson, US District Court of Montana, is expected to rule on the change of venue in the next month or two.
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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