August 2018 by Scott Harn
Since my last trip to Washington, DC, in June, the communication lines have remained open with several federal agencies and key members of Congress.
While we were unable to get our proposed “Small Miner Amendments,” written by Clark Pearson of Public Lands for the People (PLP), through this cycle of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), we had in-depth conversations with members of both the House and Senate. Several influential members like our proposals and are still working with us to refine them. Now that large mining concerns were successful in getting a strategic and critical minerals section added to the NDAA to address some of the major issues facing large mining companies, the NDAA pathway is open for the next cycle. And the current administration’s goal of reducing regulatory burdens is backstopping this effort.
Some of these influential members are continuing to ask for our opinions on matters currently under consideration that will affect small miners.
While in DC, Clark and I participated in a full-day roundtable discussion with other concerned property rights advocates on topics such as ranching, logging, mining, off-road use, critical habitat and other public land uses. As I write this, I just finished participating in a conference call regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with members of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These two agencies jointly announced a much-touted proposal to “streamline” the process for Section 7 consultations, and to further define and clarify “some of the standards under which listings, delistings, and reclassifications, and critical habitat designations are made.”
From what I heard and read, their proposed changes do little to fix the major issues like the proliferation of critical habitat and the designation of habitat even in areas where a species is no longer present. Critical habitat is what shuts down mining, ranching and logging, and locks up federal lands. However, there was one bright spot—the Service proposes to remove the “blanket rule” put in place by the Obama Administration that automatically conveyed the same protections for threatened species as endangered species.
The proposed changes from Fish and Wildlife and the NOAA will be published in the Federal Register July 25 and can be found online at www.regulations.gov. There will be three separate notices, and we encourage all miners to review the proposed changes and submit comments. The current administration has shown a stronger inclination than past administrations to accept constructive comments and reduce regulatory burdens, but those changes won’t come unless you participate in the process. Comments will be accepted for 60 days after publication and can be made via the website: www.regulations.gov
Where the agencies are falling short, Congress seems to be stepping in to take control of ESA problems.
The House is currently focussed on fixing the ESA by limiting the never-ending litigation and by placing reasonable limits on how and why a species is listed as threatened or endangered.
The goal of the ESA needs to be refined and directed back toward its original intent, which is to recover species or remove them from the list if extinct. Since it was initially signed into law in 1966, amended in 1969, and completely replaced with a new version in 1973, the ESA has become an unwieldy beast that was hijacked by government agencies run amok, and by extreme environmental groups who saw it as a way to lock up public lands and to generate income through exaggerated claims and continuous lawsuits.
The House wants to fix many of these issues and return the focus to recovery. The House has proposed 9 bills so far to address ESA problems; you can view them online at www.govtrack.us.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to review the “Small Miner Amendments” you can find them with a quick search on our website at www.icmj.com. We also published a survey last month on page 28 of the July 2018 issue asking you, our readers, what our priorities should be when seeking relief from Congress, and I want to thank those of you who have already sent those in.
While we obviously would have loved to have at least a portion of our “Small Miner Amendments” through Congress by now, we have to be realistic. It took large mining concerns six years to get their proposed bill through Congress and we’ve only been at it for three years. We’ve learned that patience and persistence is key, and we’re determined to keep at it until we see real relief for small miners in America.
Clark Pearson of PLP and I have offered to return to DC for further discussions with some of these key members of Congress to work face-to-face on the “Small Miner Amendments,” and we will likely return later this year as funding allows.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal advertisers and readers. I’ve made three week-long trips to DC in the past 15 months with Public Lands for the People. It’s your continued support that allows me the opportunity to travel to DC and seek relief for small-scale miners. And thank you for your continued support of PLP—this would be impossible without their expertise.
One of the most asinine proposals in the SEIR is to require miners to state when and where they will be dredging. This information would be accessible to the public, which would make them prime candidates for getting their homes burglarized while they are out mining.
• Battle continues in Oregon
• Stop annexation in Southern California
• EPA ignores Supreme Court ruling with new Idaho permit
• Alaska sues Feds to restore access rights
• California dredgers await next big court date
Many miners have failed to exercise their rights by using the power of their Mining Districts and laws that are already on the books, such as 43 CFR 9712.1, which states…
An Assembly panel approved a measure to repeal the constitutional tax cap on net proceeds paid by mining companies in Nevada.
- DOI to address threatened species
- 141 Confirmations still pending
- California withdrawals canceled
Each separate Mining District is a federally recognized entity. There are huge advantages—picture yourself going to an oversight meeting where 2, 3, 4, or even more Mining District representatives have obtained voting positions on the board.
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