August 2019 by Scott Harn
As mentioned last month, the Trump administration is not waiting for Congress to act to fix many of the issues related to mining and exploration in America. (If you missed the details spelled out in the PLP Update column last month, you can find it on our website at www.icmj.com.)
Public Lands for the People and I have been included in this process, participating in two conference calls in the past with month with officials in DC.
The first two of many proposed changes are already underway.
First, the Bureau of Land Management is moving its headquarters from DC to Colorado, and several hundred DC-based BLM employees will be transferred to western state offices to be closer to the public lands they manage and to provide improved, expedited service to the public according to Interior assistant secretary Joe Balash. The relocation of employees is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020.
And second, the Forest Service is currently seeking public comments as they revise their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. A link to their proposed rulemaking can be found with the online version of this article. Comments are due by August 12, 2019.
On the federal level, the largest volume of complaints we receive from our readers is related to access restrictions put in place by the Forest Service. We brought 412 such complaints to a deputy director at the USDA in a DC meeting last year.
We are happy to report that the current administration has issued a directive to the Forest Service and BLM to address this concern, which states:
Travel management plans identify which roads or trails are open to motorized vehicles, off highway vehicles, and identifies areas that may be closed altogether and blocked from motorized use. However, these plans do not adequately account for the importance of access to lands for mineral development. Accordingly, SMA’s travel management plans should be created or amended to prioritize access for mineral exploration. Further, existing infrastructure should be maintained or improved to allow access to mineral resources. Maintaining infrastructure may be the responsibility of the SMA or the private sector and depends on the purpose of the infrastructure.
There will be many proposed changes and rulemakings coming out in the next 12 to 24 months. Please stay engaged, and take advantage of each opportunity to provide constructive comments when public comments are requested. We’ll keep you informed as these opportunities arise.
While progress with Congress has been slow, the Trump administration has taken the lead to start making needed changes at the Department of Interior and US Department of Agriculture to support miners…
Public Lands for the People has agreed to support the US Supreme Court appeal with financial assistance and with the filing of an amicus brief. (We here at the Mining Journal have also agreed to participate in the amicus brief.)
One caller wondered why he should be required to join MMAC, asked why MMAC was not a non-profit, and compared it to some kind of extortion attempt. If he had questions like these, I assume there are others with similar questions and I will address them here.
We are heading into 2019 with a cautiously optimistic view. We feel we are very close to obtaining regulatory relief for miners, and believe this NDAA cycle will prove fruitful.
Q: The nearest access to the claim is a half mile walk, which is tough for a lode claim.
Most of the mining opposition today is centered around the small-scale miner. These miners number in the thousands and come from every walk of life.
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