Legislative and Regulatory Update
November 2008 by Scott
• BLM blocks Democrats
Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) introduced HR 5583 in March 2008, which attempts to place over one million acres around Grand Canyon National Park off-limits to mining.
Grijalva apparently got impatient with the lack of progress on his bill. Back in June, while Republican members of the House Natural Resources Committee walked out in protest, the Democratic Party members of the committee voted 20-2 to adopt an emergency resolution to withdraw this same area from mining.
Utilizing a little-used section of the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) that allows withdrawals under emergency circumstances, the Democrats claimed that the park was under threat due to the increased interest in uranium around the park. Bureau of Land Management records indicate there are more than 1,100 mining claims within five miles of the park.
Section 204 of FLPMA was used twice in the early 1980s; however, a Justice Department opinion written in 1983 deemed the practice unconstitutional.
On October 10, the Bureau of Land Management addressed the situation by publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register to outlaw these emergency withdrawals.
The notice stated, in part, “Contrary to its implication, the procedures for issuing an emergency withdrawal order do not result in the protection of public lands more rapidly than the completion of a more conventional withdrawal process. Conventional withdrawals of public lands, as necessary and appropriate, will continue.”
The notice continued, “These regulations are redundant, since public lands can be protected without substantial delay via conventional withdrawal procedures, without resource to the regulations providing for emergency withdrawals. Moreover, constitutional issues may arise whenever a Congressional committee directs the Secretary of Interior to withdraw lands immediately.”
The comment period was short—only fifteen days were allowed to submit comments.
While we here at the Mining Journal do not make it a habit to endorse particular candidates or parties, it is obvious that Democrats are more in favor of placing additional lands off-limits to mining.
• PLP has their hands full representing miners
Public Lands for the People (PLP) is back in court assisting miners as the Karuk Tribe of Northern California tries again to shut down suction gold dredging.
The Karuk Tribe has failed in every attempt so far, including the recent attempt by their ally, Representative Lois Wolk, who placed a rider in the budget bill that would have placed a moratorium on suction dredging until the California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) completes a new Environmental Impact Report. DFG had continually claimed they could not start the study due to a lack of funding. Rep. Wolk included $1 million for the EIR in the budget bill rider, along with her requested moratorium on dredging. Governor Schwarzenegger allowed the funding of the new EIR to pass in the budget bill in late 2008, but vetoed the moratorium on dredging.
Now the Karuk’s are back in court, claiming the DFG failed to abide by an earlier court order that stated a new EIR was to be completed by mid-2008. The funding is now in place, but DFG didn’t even begin the EIR process by the deadline.
The Karuk’s are again seeking a moratorium on suction gold dredging due to DFGs failure to complete the court mandated study by the deadline. On October 6, PLP and their attorney attended the first of what may be many court hearings on this case.
There are rumors that a second lawsuit based on the California Environmental Quality Act may also be filed by the Karuk’s. We’ll keep you posted.
PLP is also preparing litigation to address the closure of access routes in our National Forests. The Forest Service has been requiring each National Forest to prepare a Travel Management Plan, which restricts access for mining and cuts off historic routes granted by Revised Statute 2477. (For more information on Revised Statute 2477, visit www.rs2477roads.com)
The first lawsuit will be filed against the Eldorado National Forest. Eldorado National Forest was one of the first to implement a Travel Management Plan and restrict access for miners and other public land users.
In addition, PLP, in cooperation with the Waldo Mining District, has initiated a study on dredging and mercury. See "Suction Dredge Study" later in this issue for an open letter regarding the study.
PLP will continue to fight for your rights as their funding allows, but they need your financial support.
Tax deductible contributions can be sent to:
Public Lands for the People
Attn: BH Wetherby
3700 Santa Carlotta Dr
La Crescenta, CA 91214
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