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Legislative and Regulatory Update

Haaland confirmed as head of Department of Interior
The US Senate confirmed Representative Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) to head the Department of Interior by a vote of 51-40. (Nine members were not present; Republicans Lindsey Graham, Dan Sullivan, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins joined Democrats with “yes” votes.)

Haaland’s views have been labeled “extreme” by some members of Congress. She participated in a protest against the Dakota Access pipeline and supported the “Green New Deal” as a member of Congress.

“Representative Haaland’s extreme policy views, lack of substantive answers during the confirmation process, and full support for President Biden’s war on American energy disqualify her for the job of Interior Secretary,” said Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming). “Her views on American energy fly in the face of the mission of the Department of the Interior.”

Proposed bills aim to lock up millions of acres of public lands
Democrats in the House proposed a huge lands package to place additional public lands off-limits in Arizona, California, Colorado and Washington.

On February 26, the House passed the package of eight bills that would designate millions of additional acres as wilderness, add 1,200 miles of rivers to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and withdraw more than one million acres from new mining claims.

In Arizona, mining claims would be prohibited on approximately one million acres outside the Grand Canyon.

The lands package targets several areas in California. In southern California, it seeks to add over 100,000 acres to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, designate 45.5 miles of rivers as Wild and Scenic, and create a 40,000-acre National Recreation Area. Included are all three forks of the San Gabriel River, where gold mining has been popular for over 100 years. Another 191,000 acres would be added to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

In central California, 287,500 acres in the Carrizo Plain and Los Padres National Forest would be designated as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

In northern California, the proposal by Congressman Jared Huffman would lock up over one million acres and designate 480 miles of rivers as Wild and Scenic including portions of the Trinity River system and going as far north as the Smith and Illinois River watersheds in Siskiyou County.

In Colorado, the bills would designate 660,000 additional acres as wilderness in various smaller pockets throughout the state.

Up in Washington State, 457 miles of rivers in and around Olympic National Forest would be designated as Wild and Scenic and over 130,000 acres of the area would be designated as wilderness.

While the package of bills passed the House mostly along party lines, they face a tougher road in the Senate where 60 votes are required. Congressman Huffman stated he is optimistic the package can be attached to a spending bill or defense-related bill to push it through.
More information is available online at https://naturalresources.house.gov/media/media-advisories/wilderness2021.

President Biden previously declared his administration’s goal is to protect 30 percent of America’s lands by 2030. According to the US Geological Survey, approximately 12% of US lands are permanently protected currently. Over 400 million additional acres of public lands would have to be placed off-limits over the next ten years to reach this goal!

Recall election could have implications for dredgers in California
It appears that California Governor Gavin Newsom will be facing a recall election after over two million signatures were submitted to the state in support of the effort.

Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1 in the state, so this is likely the best chance for a win by the minority party. The way recall elections work in California, voters are asked if they want to retain the current governor or replace him, and if the answer is “replace,” which of the listed candidates would they choose?

Many California residents have been upset with Newsom’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact his restrictions have had on small businesses, and he’s been photographed a few times violating the rules he set for others.

If Newsom is replaced with a Republican, this would provide the opportunity to replace the unelected members of the State Water Resources Control Board. The Board was tasked with issuing new suction dredging regulations by the state legislature, and the Board placed all the gold-bearing rivers and streams off-limits under the guise that legacy mercury could be present.

© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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