On September 24, 2015, the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a Notice of Proposed Withdrawal to designate approximately 19,000,000 acres of federal land as “Sagebrush Focal Areas” and prohibit all new mining claims in those areas for the next 20 years.
The proposed withdrawal will impact miners in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada, and will have a devastating impact on public and private efforts to revitalize mining in Oregon. The BLM proposal will affect nearly 2,000,000 acres in Oregon, located in Harney, Malheur and Lake Counties. The time is now for all interested parties to submit comments to the BLM!
According to the BLM, the proposed withdrawal is needed to “protect the Greater Sage-Grouse (GSG) and its habitat from adverse effects of locatable mineral exploration and mining.” The BLM’s rule follows a recent decision by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that the GSG does not warrant protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Wait a minute – the USFWS just said the GSG doesn’t warrant protection under the ESA, but now the BLM is going to prohibit all new mining claims to protect the GSG? How is this proposal different from one that would have occurred if the GSG had been listed?
To add insult to injury, while the BLM proposal claims to impact only 10,000,000 acres, the properties listed in the six states total 19,000,000 acres, or nearly double what the BLM claims, a point that must be pressed with BLM.
“These new rules are a kick in the gut to hardworking eastern Oregonians and struggling counties in southeastern Oregon,” said Dave Hunnicutt, President of the Oregon Mining Association. “The Oregon legislature just recognized mining as a key natural resource industry in Oregon, and southeast Oregon is a vital part of the state for mining. These proposed rules will make it nearly impossible for the industry to expand into southeast Oregon. This is a shame for rural Oregon and all rural Oregonians.”
There is still time to act. The Oregon Mining Association (OMA) will be submitting comments to the BLM before the December 23, 2015 comment deadline, and we urge all of you to do so as well. Comments may be addressed in writing to the BLM Director, 1849 C Street NW., (WO–210), Washington, DC 20240, or electronically to email@example.com.
OMA will also contact Congressman Walden’s office and ask for his intervention and support. We urge you to do the same.