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.
Keep in mind there are specific steps that must be taken to get your traditional mining district organized if it has fallen into disarray.
Mining Districts are the private regulatory authority granted by Congress recognized to regulate the mineral lands held by the United States and for the disposal to citizens of the United States, by means of development and potentially perfected by patent.
On July 4, we are reminded of the sacrifices our Founding Fathers made to establish this great country of ours, and in that spirit, the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council (MMAC) has created a draft Declaration of Miners.And MMAC has been hard at work writing a bill, with the unwavering support of several members of Congress, to reaffirm the rights of miners operating in traditional mining districts.
We spent our evening at some informal get-togethers at two private residences in the DC area, which provided the opportunity to talk with staff members from Congress, other agencies, and a few consultants working on public land issues. We found common ground with many of them, and found a strong ally in a former Congressman turned consultant who agreed that Mining Districts provide the smartest legal route...
Public Lands for the People has established an online petition. We would like to gather thousands of signatures from across the country to show members of Congress that their constituents are supporting this legislation.
... officials with BLM have been impressed by MMAC’s professional approach and consistency.
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