Legislative and Regulatory Update
March 2019 by Scott Harn
• Massive 660-page lands bill passed in the Senate
Senate Bill 47 (S47), the Natural Resources Management Act, introduced by Senator Murkowski (R-Alaska), was chock full of land conveyances, mineral withdrawals, park boundary adjustments, and gifts to various Senators to get their support. Our biggest concern is that it included permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is the primary vehicle used by the federal government to place more public lands off-limits to mining.
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced an amendment in an attempt to limit authorization of the LWCF to a period of four years.
In support of the LWCF limits, Senator Lee stated, “...the program has regrettably drifted far from its original intent and has become rife with abuse.
“Indeed, the Land and Water Conservation Fund—or LWCF, as it is often described—has instead been used as a primary tool for more Federal land acquisition rather than to actually help people access or to help the government care for the land we already manage.”
Senator Lee also noted the federal government currently administers 640 million acres and there is an $18.5 billion maintenance backlog on federal lands.
Senator Lee’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 68 to 30.
S47 received a full, recorded vote on February 12, and it passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 92-8. The eight Senators who voted against the bill were Cruz (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Johnson (R-WI), Lankford (R-OK), Lee (R-UT), Paul (R-KY), Sasse (R-NE), and Toomey (R-PA).
The bill now awaits consideration in the House.
The Senator’s office was very receptive to the small miner’s plight and was unaware of the dire problems created by the over-regulation of small-scale mining from so many different fronts. It was pointed out that S 145 may help the large mining companies a little, but falls woefully short in addressing the needs of small operators who make up 85% of domestic mines.
Is there any hope for a solution? Yes, there is, and we’ve been working with Public Lands for the People, the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council, attorney James Buchal and others on that solution.
We're done watching as an unelected and unchecked bureaucracy, with rule-making authority, enforcement powers, and seemingly bottomless budgets abuses citizens at will.
• Oregon dredging bill defeated
• California bill would exempt dredgers from permitting
• Possible ESA listing
• Washington State tries to impose more fees on miners
• Hearing date moved up for preliminary injunction for California suction dredging
• Anti-mining bills in Oregon lead to recall effort
• Court says ESA does not apply in some cases
• Comments needed for proposed critical habitat in several Western states
• EPA still trying to rewrite the Clean Water Act
• Enough already!
• Now is the time to act
We spent the morning in a meeting with one of the higher-ups at the US Forest Service. I presented him with 412 complaints received from our readers, along with a summary of the complaints to make his job easier.
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