Mining Provisions Going After Federal Lands Dec 3, 2005 19:45:21 GMT -5
Post by WalksInSpirit on Dec 3, 2005 19:45:21 GMT -5
Mining Provision Going After Federal Lands
05:53 PM PST on Friday, December 2, 2005
By GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News & Associated Press
GRANITE FALLS, Wash. – Washington State groups say a provision making its way through Congress could open up federal lands to mining and close them to the rest of us.
The Wild Sky region of the North Cascades is one of many publicly-owned forests that draw millions of visitors each year.
It's your land, but Washington Sate leaders warn there's an effort underway to sell your land.
"This is a terrible, terrible rip-off of the tax payers and the public who enjoy these jewels in the crown of Washington State," said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.
Congressman Inslee and watchdog groups say thousands of acres of federal lands in Washington State could be sold off under a mining reform measure.
The measure is the work of California Congressman Richard Pombo, a private property rights advocate who recently fought off plans to create a Wild Sky wilderness.
Pombo and others say selling off public lands to mining interests could make the country billions of dollars and boost local economies.
"What this would do for Washington State is put a for sale sign at clearance prices on our wild forests," said Tom Uniack, Washington Wilderness Coalition.
The measure is based on century-old laws that allowed miners to get badly needed minerals needed to build a nation.
Critics call them outdated laws that have already put public lands at risk. They say the new measure would actually allow developers to use bogus mining claims to build ski, golf, or any kind of resort they claim on federal forest and parks lands.
"They literally can buy this land and put a gate across Mount Rainier National Park, or parts of it, and you'd no longer have access to it," said Inslee.
Inslee says the measure was quietly attached to the House federal budget bill right along with the one to allow oil exploration in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge.
So far, Congressional opponents have successfully fought efforts to drill in ANWR. Now they have a whole new fight on their hands.
The Northwest Mining Association is supporting the measure and a spokesperson told King 5 Friday that critics are overstating its impact. Laura Skaer says companies making mineral claims will have to clearly prove those minerals exist and can be mined.
Former BLM boss in Nevada condemns Pombo-Gibbons mining measure
The former top U.S. land manager for the biggest gold mining state in the nation says a proposal in Congress to privatize public mining lands "would be catastrophic, both environmentally and economically."
Bob Abbey was considered largely an ally of the mining industry before his retirement in June as the Bureau of Land Management's state director for Nevada.
But he says the proposal by Republican Congressmen Richard Pombo of California and Jim Gibbons of Nevada offers false hopes to rural communities to attract new businesses.
"There is nothing positive about this bill unless you happen to have ownership in a mining company," said Abbey.
In an op-ed first published in Thursday's Reno Gazette-Journal, he said he has spent half his life managing the public's land and being a proponent of responsible mining. But he says he has no doubt the legislation is bad for American taxpayers.
Gibbons is the chairman of the House Resources subcommittee on energy and mineral resources. He disputes Abbey's assertions.
He says the proposed changes in the 1872 Mining Law that are included in a budget bill headed for a House-Senate conference committee are needed to allow companies to purchase - or "patent" - the federal land that housed their mining operations.