Legislative and Regulatory Update
July 2003 by Staff
• USFS Draft Reclamation Bond Guide needs your comments
The US Forest Service has published a Draft Reclamation Bond Estimation and Administration Guide. The document is intended to guide Forest Service employees in determining the appropriate bond amounts necessary for mining in national forests.
The document provides sample formulas and procedures for Forest Service employees to utilize when calculating bond requirements, and opens by stating that many current bonds are inadequate.
There are many areas that need constructive comments, but one in particular is a recommendation that language be inserted in Plans of Operation to require an operator to undergo review and update of bonds annually. The Forest Service currently only has authority to update bond requirements when an operator submits the initial Plan of Operation, or a modification or supplement to the Plan of Operation. This new requirement would cause countless hours of lost time and money to small and large operators.
The draft can be viewed online at www.fs.fed.us/geology/draft_guide.html
The comment period ends July 16, 2003. Send comments to Mike Doran, M&GM MS 1126, PO Box 96090, Washington, DC 20090-6090. Comments may also be emailed to email@example.com
• Colorado seeks ownership of rights of way
Colorado Governor Mike Owens has asked the Bush administration for help in clearing up title to roads across federal lands following an agreement reached between the Interior Department and the state of Utah.
Colorado has gone a step further than Utah by asking Interior to address rights of way within monuments, parks and wilderness areas. These areas were excluded in the agreement made between Interior and Utah.
In April, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton reached an agreement with Governor Owens and set up a process for handling rights of way across federal lands in Utah, but other interested parties like Colorado were not included in the negotiations.
Many states in the West would like to obtain title to roads and rights of way that were established under Revised Statute 2477, which guaranteed states and counties the right to establish roads across federal lands. The Interior developed “disclaimer regulations” to get around a 1997 regulation that barred claims of RS 2477 rights of way.
Environmentalists have stated they will file suit to prevent BLM from using the disclaimer regulations and will seek to overturn the agreement reached by Interior and the state of Utah.
More information on Revised Statute 2477 is available on our website under the Additional Resources section.
• Comments needed for Sierra Nevada EIS
The Forest Service has released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Sierra Nevada.
This EIS contains numerous recommended changes to the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan, including changes to roads and mining claims within the forest.
Under the preferred alternative, approximately 11% of mining claims could be impacted by withdrawals or mitigation measures according to the Supplemental EIS. We recommend that you get a copy of this 382-page document early so you have plenty of time to study it prior to submitting comments.
The table of contents and the index are well-written, so you will not have to search the entire document to locate mining-related issues.
The preferred alternative appears to bring sensible management and common sense back to timber management, and would allow some of our brothers and sisters in the timber industry to return to work.
To request a printed or electronic copy (CD) of the Draft SEIS, or for more information, contact Kathleen S. Morse, IDT Leader at:
Mail: SNFPA SEIS Team
1323 Club Drive
Vallejo, CA 94592
Comments may be sent by mail, fax or email:
Mail: SNFPA Draft SEIS
P.O. Box 221090
Salt Lake City, UT 84122-1090
Comments must be received by September 12, 2003.
• Roadless rule to stand, with a few changes
The Bush administration has decided to leave in place the controversial Clinton administration roadless plan, which bars road construction and timber sales on much of 58 million acres of national forest lands. The announcement, made June 9, included limited exceptions.
The administration plans to introduce a separate rule in September to allow individual governors to apply for exemptions from the rule. Exemptions could be made for private property access, fire reduction, maintenance of facilities, wildlife habitat, and to make technical corrections.
Alaska was successful in getting Tongass National Forest removed from the roadless rule. The administration also agreed to open up 300,000 acres of the Tongass to timber sales.
• Fish and Wildlife budget depleted by environmental lawsuits
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has run out of money for making critical habitat designations. They announced that no additional critical habitat designations will be made this fiscal year, which ends September 30th.
The agency is trying to comply with court ordered deadlines imposed as a result of environmental lawsuits, but they are also forbidden by law from spending more than Congress has allotted.
“The Endangered Species Act is broken. This flood of litigation over critical habitat designation is preventing the Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting new species and reducing its ability to recover plants and animals already listed as threatened or endangered,” said Craig Manson, DOI’s Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. “Imagine an emergency room where lawsuits force the doctors to treat sprained ankles while patients with heart attacks expire in the waiting room and you’ve got a good picture of our endangered species program right now.”
• Groups join forces to stop closure of public lands (From Steve Funk, President, MFMU.)
Montanans for Multiple Use (MFMU) and 13 co-plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit in Washington DC against the US Department of Agriculture, US Forest Service, and numerous Federal personnel to stop the incremental shutdown of national forests to public access.
“For nearly two decades, extremist preservationist groups have abused the no-risk litigation rights available to them under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) and other federal statutes,” stated MFMU. Under the provisions of EAJA and other federal laws, non-profit corporations who lose frivolous lawsuits are not responsible for the actual cost to taxpayers. MFMU states that the federal government pays non-profits for all the outrageous costs they submit.
Among other things, the suit seeks an injunction to stop any additional implementation of illegal Forest Plan amendments including those that call for the obliteration of public roads.
Co-plaintiffs are Senator Jerry O’Niel, Representative George Everett, Sanders County, Flathead County, Leland’s Honda, Northwest Montana Gold Prospectors Association, Montanans for Property Rights, Capital Trail Vehicle Association, Flathead Snowmobile Association, North American Wolf Watch, Owens & Hurst Lumber Company, Leland J. Moore and Flathead Business and Industry Association.
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