Legislative and Regulatory Update
September 2006 by Scott Harn
• Roadless Rule
The Bush administration had the right to overturn a ban on road construction in portions of national forests, but may have needed to weigh possible environmental effects at the same time, a federal judge said.
US District Judge Elizabeth Laporte said the Forest Service appeared to be “on solid ground” last year when it reversed Clinton’s Roadless Rule.
But she questioned whether the agency violated federal law by skipping environmental studies—the heart of two lawsuits brought by 20 environmental groups and the states of California, Oregon, New Mexico and Washington. The cases have since been consolidated.
Laporte said she did not know when she would issue a final decision.
The legal dispute stems from the Clinton-era rule that prohibited logging, mining and other development on 58.5 million acres of forestland in 38 states and Puerto Rico.
Timber companies dependent on national forest land and some western states challenged the Clinton rule, and the Bush administration, in May 2005, replaced it with a voluntary state-by-state petition process.
• Eastern Oregon miners forced out of water
A federal judge has ordered that gold mining operations along the North Fork of the Burnt River in Baker County, Oregon, be suspended.
Environmentalists had filed a lawsuit against the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, claiming that allowing mining in this area violated the Clean Water Act.
Judge Papak agreed. “The Forest Service may not ignore or defer its responsibility to remedy existing water pollution in the project area based on a misguided notion that the right to mine trumps federal and state environmental laws,” wrote Judge Papak.
Key to the lawsuit were claims that the North Fork of the Burnt River and two of its tributaries do not meet federal water quality standards for temperature and clarity.
A total of 49 known mining operations are affected by the ruling.
• Colorado city pushes for more regulations
Environmentalists in Grand Junction, Colorado, have gathered enough signatures for a ballot measure in that city that could create additional regulations for public land users. The sponsors hope to limit the areas open to exploration, and create their own water quality and monitoring standards.
The Grand Junction City Council will decide either to pass its own version of the proposal or place it on the November ballot.
Some local residents were upset that federal oil and gas leases were sold in areas that supply drinking water to the city. The Bureau of Land Management had already agreed to suspend development of leases for one year to address residents’ concerns.
The ballot proposal would apply to logging, mining, oil and gas development, and cattle operations.
• Kensington project moves forward
US District Judge James Singleton dismissed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s approval of the Kensington Mine’s plan to dispose of waste rock into Alaska’s Lower Slate Lake.
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and the Sierra Club are expected to appeal to the 9th Circuit.
Construction continues on the Kensington Mine, operated by Coeur Alaska, a subsidiary of Coeur d’Alene Mines of Idaho. The company hopes to open the mine in 2007, and currently employs about 300 workers.
• By the numbers...
• National Debt
The Forest Service wants a two-year ban on new hard-rock mining claims on 429,000 acres of national forest land on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in Montana.
Q: Our group has found a nickel deposit in the Yuma, Arizona area that is similar to the one that you wrote about...
Somehow the Bureau of Land Management seems to have forgotten that they work for the people.
I hope this case inspires some of you. It shows that miners can and do succeed when they are persistent and well-prepared, even when representing themselves against state and federal attorneys in a court of law.
There are many prospects within the known mineralized area and along the margins of the mineralized area that should be examined for gold and silver.
The Bawl Mill • The Yukon-Klondike Goldfields—Part I • New Mine from Century-Old Gold-Silver Bonanza • Solar Powered Placer Equipment • The Treasure Detective—Part III • Countries Want More Concessions From Miners • New Interim Rules For Washington Miners • Detecting for Possible Mid-Range Eluvial Gold • Melman on Gold & Silver