Legislative and Regulatory Update
July 2001 by Staff• Roadless Rule temporarily halted by U.S. District Judge
Many of you have already learned that a federal judge in Idaho blocked the federal government’s ban on road building, commonly referred to as Clinton’s “Roadless Rule.”
U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge made his decision less than one week after the Bush administration decided to allow the rule to take effect on May 12.
Judge Lodge agreed that allowing the rule to take effect “poses serious risks of irreparable harm.” The plaintiffs included the state of Idaho, Boise Cascade timber, snowmobilers, farmers and others. There are at least seven other suits pending.
Judge Lodge commented on the Bush plan to allow the rule to stand while obtaining more local input during a revision process. He said that allowing the rule to stand “ignores the reality...that once something of this magnitude is set in motion, momentum is irresistible, options are closed and agency commitments, if not set in concrete, will be the subject of litigation for years to come.”
Idaho Senator Larry Craig said, “In issuing the preliminary injunction, he saw this rule is a flawed rule and [part of] a flawed process.”
Environmentalists have appealed to the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The federal appeals court has already stated they will issue a quick ruling. Briefs were required to be in by May 31, and a decision may come as soon as July.
Forest Chief Dale Bosworth issued a memo to agency staffers that outlines the Forest Service focus at this point. His memo states that “decisions will continue to be made consistent with applicable forest plans, as provided by the National Forest Management Act, and with the involvement of local communities, tribes, states, regional and national interests... This direction...will also provide full and fair public consideration of local conditions, cumulative effects, and other critical information and analysis affecting roadless values...”
Bosworth also removed the authority to approve or deny some projects from local foresters. The memo states, “Effective immediately, I am reserving to myself, the decision authority for timber harvest and road construction in inventoried roadless areas...”
Bosworth said he will relinquish control after local officials get approval for their local plans.
• Republican defection
For you cave dwellers, let me bring you up to date on changes in the U.S. Senate. Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords abandoned the Republican party and declared himself an Independent. This swung the balance of power in the Senate, giving Democrats a 50 to 49 advantage. Democrats took over lead positions in all committees. Jeffords’ desk was literally unbolted from the Republican section of the floor and moved to the Democrat’s side.
Only time will tell what this will do to Bush’s plans. He will truly have to be a “uniter” to get anything through the Senate.
• Congressmen fight for National Monument changes
U.S. Representatives Jim Hansen and Chris Gannon, both Republicans from Utah, addressed a gathering in southern Utah recently, gauging support for resizing the Grand Staircase-
Escalante National Monument. Hansen said he is in favor of reducing the size of the monument by two-thirds.
Local Mayor Phillip Bimstein received only scattered applause when he spoke of his support for the monument designation. The audience cheered when Cannon reiterated his opposition to the monument.
Hansen sarcastically referred to the monument as the “Grand Sagebrush” national monument.
Cannon said any measure in the House to repeal the monument would fall short by at least 35 votes. They are still hoping to get the boundary lines revised.
Cannon and Hansen have also co-sponsored HR 2114 IH, the “National Monument Fairness Act of 2001,” an amendment to the Antiquities Act that would require public input and notification for any proclamation that would give monument status to an area greater than 50,000 acres. The amendment includes “...any such proclamation shall cease to be effective on the date 2 years after issuance of the proclamation unless the Congress has approved such proclamation by law.”
Show your support for this proposal by contacting your Representatives. Click on “Info & Links” on our web site, followed by “U.S. House of Representatives” for access to your Representative.
• 3809 rollback decision expected soon
Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton is expected to issue a decision by July 19 on the proposed rollbacks of 3809 regulation changes. Hopefully you have all submitted your comments to BLM. We recently learned from a long-time subscriber that he received an email from the Mineral Policy Center after he submitted his comments in support of the proposed rollbacks.
The Mineral Policy Center thanked him for “opposing the rollbacks” and directed him to their website for more information. The Mineral Policy Center apparently has access to the email addresses. They claim that 30,000 comments have been received that oppose the rollbacks.
The National Mining Association (NMA) recently issued a statement criticizing the Mineral Policy Center for relying on “selective distortion, mischaracterization, and misinformation-through-omission.”
Comments can be mailed to:
BLM Administrative Record
Room 401 LS
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Comments can also be e-mailed to: WOComments@blm.gov and be sure to include “Attn AD22” in the subject field.
• Yucca Mountain: Done deal or “dead?”
In the months since Bush announced his energy plan, there has been an interesting new take on nuclear waste storage. Instead of deciding when construction of a nuclear waste facility will begin at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, questions have been asked regarding the suitability of the site for safely storing 77,000 tons of nuclear waste.
A big part of this redirection is as a result of the change in leadership in the U.S. Senate. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is now the assistant majority leader. The new Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, said recently he thought the Yucca Mountain project would be a “dead” issue as long as Democrats were in control.
Nevada still faces a tough battle since the Department of Energy is moving forward with the suitability study.
• Miners battle for their rights in southern Oregon
Miners in southern Oregon are still battling with the Siskiyou National Forest (SNF). It’s already been a year since the SNF announced that due to their interpretation of a court ruling, all mining activity of any type would require an approved Plan of Operation. Over 2,100 Plans of Operation were submitted by January 2001.
Former Interior Secretary Babbitt then pushed through a Mineral Withdrawal, segregating SNF and adjoining BLM land for two-years, effective January 22, 2001.
Members of the Waldo Mining District (WMD) have been working hard to correct the situation.
Tom Kitchar, Vice President of WMD, stated their investigation into the withdrawal revealed that the specifics of the segregation were not published in the Federal Register as required in 43 CFR 2310.3-1(b)(2)(ii).
Kitchar stated that after numerous letters and phone calls to Washington, D.C., he has been assured that the Interior Dept. is aware of the situation and is looking into it.
Kitchar also filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the names and addresses of all persons who have filed a Plan of Operation. His request was denied—he appealed, and was denied again. Then he learned that the Siskiyou Regional Education Project (SREP), an environmental group, had requested and received the same information under a FOIA request!
“This is obviously preferential treatment,” said Kitchar. The next step may be legal action for the WMD.
The group is currently awaiting word on an appeal to USFS Chief Dale Bosworth. Kitchar encourages miners to support their efforts by writing letters. Letters can be addressed to:
Sec. of the Interior Gale Norton
Dept. of the Interior
1849 C St. NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dale Bosworth, Chief, USFS
US Dept. of Agriculture
201 14th St SW at Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20250
Most small-scale miners want to know how they can set up a system much more cheaply. The difficulty is in the balance of putting together a decent small-scale system at a reasonable cost.
As I write this, I am still on a rush from taking my 9-year-old son, Jeffrey, prospecting for the first time this past weekend. It’s not that he hasn’t been along on numerous outings before: this is the first time that just the two of us went out for a day of drywashing and detecting under the desert sun.
• SREP appeals
• No decision yet in Karuk case
• Right to Access bill
I know big mining companies use cyanide and other leach systems to recover gold from ore. Is this the only economically feasible way to recover the values?
Once all of the pros and cons are considered, many miners and prospectors have discovered the so-called “Limited Liability Company” is the most profitable operating entity for their venture.
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