DOI and BLM Scrap 10-Million-Acre Mineral Withdrawal, Begin to Unwind Job-Killing Sage Grouse Policies

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Washington, October 5, 2017 | Tanner Hanson | comments
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul A. Gosar D.D.S. (AZ-04), Executive Vice-Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03), Chairman Emeritus Rob Bishop (UT-01), Chief Infrastructure and Forestry Officer Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Western Caucus members Greg Gianforte (MT-AT Large), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Andy Biggs (AZ-05) and Tom Emmer (MN-06) and Vice-Chairman for Policy and Appropriations Mark Amodei (NV-02) released the following statements after the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior announced they are cancelling the proposed 10-million-acre mineral withdrawal in six Western states, and that the agencies are initiating action to overturn restrictive Sage Grouse regulations implemented by the Obama Administration:
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For Immediate Release

Date: October 5, 2017

Contact: Tanner Hanson

Tanner.Hanson@mail.house.gov



WASHINGTON, D.C.
– Today, Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul A. Gosar D.D.S. (AZ-04), Executive Vice-Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03), Chairman Emeritus Rob Bishop (UT-01), Chief Infrastructure and Forestry Officer Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Western Caucus members Greg Gianforte (MT-AT Large), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Andy Biggs (AZ-05), Tom Emmer (MN-06) and Vice-Chairman for Policy and Appropriations Mark Amodei (NV-02) released the following statements after the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior announced they are cancelling the proposed 10-million-acre mineral withdrawal in six Western states, and that the agencies are initiating action to overturn restrictive Sage Grouse regulations implemented by the Obama Administration:

“The de facto Sage Grouse listing and 20-year mineral moratorium on 10 million acres proposed by the Obama Administration is the greatest regulatory threat to the West,” explained Chairman Gosar. “New mining operations on this massive swath of land with more than 7,000 active claims were prohibited for two years. Today’s mineral withdrawal cancellation allows job creators and hardrock miners to get back to work immediately. I am extremely grateful to Secretary Zinke and Acting BLM Director Nedd in that regard. And while taking steps to unwind the 98 Obama plan amendments on approximately 70 million other acres is welcomed, Congress must act in order to provide timely and permanent certainty on this issue for local stakeholders and Western communities.”

“After months of engaging with states and local communities on their Sage Grouse preservation efforts, I am pleased to see that Secretary Zinke is taking action to support the locally-tailored preservation efforts that account for the unique ecology and topography of the region in which the habitat occurs. The Obama Administration’s one-size-fits-all approach was bad for the West and according to biologists and conservationists, not the most effective way to restore the species. I am confident that when given the ability, Western States can produce better outcomes than the federal government,” stated Congressman Tipton.

“These withdrawals were never about Sage Grouse conservation. It was all a ploy to assert more federal power, ignore actual data and best science, and diminish the influence and authority of states. States have proven to be more than capable of managing wildlife and conservation within their borders and will continue to be the best advocate for the species,” said Congressman Bishop. “Secretary Zinke is developing a better policy through input from states and people on the ground with local knowledge and expertise.”

“The Interior Department is taking the right steps to roll back the Obama’s Administration’s overreach. This bureaucratic overreach hurts jobs and puts rural communities at risk. Congress must act to codify the Interior Department’s actions and ensure once and for all that no administration can once again threaten the livelihood of rural communities,” stated Congressman Westerman.

“I appreciate Secretary Zinke revisiting this issue. I look forward to working with Montanans to reach a solution that works best for our state and way of life,” said Congressman Gianforte.

“I am encouraged to see a hurtful Obama administration ruling rolled back by the Interior Department. This is a responsible measure considering that the ten million acres now freed up for productive use will benefit many industries unique to the West, like mining and ranching. It is a great opportunity for these states to grow and choose what works best for them based on their individual needs,” said Congressman Lamborn.

Congressman LaMalfa
said, “The steps being taken by the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management to unwind ineffective environmental policies are certainly taking us in the right direction. The Obama Administration’s restrictions placed on Sage Grouse habitat are unnecessary for a species that has now proven to be quite abundant. These restrictions only serve to harm American energy production and other beneficial uses in the west, and I’m happy that Secretary Zinke has recognized this as a real problem. That being said, Congress must work to pass legislation that provides a permanent solution that approaches conservation in a more practical and responsible manner. I am committed to making that happen.”

“The West is known for its abundance of natural resources. Jobs and local economies depend on the production of these resources. With complete disregard to these communities, President Obama used the sage grouse as a pawn to impede economic development on federal lands - putting in jeopardy the jobs of miners, ranchers, and oil producers. I commend President Trump and Secretary Zinke on their commitment to working on behalf of Western states, not against them,” said Congressman Biggs.

“I am pleased to see the Trump Administration’s decision today to undo yet another unnecessary, politically motivated action from the Obama Administration. I am encouraged and hopeful this will spur similar action related to the withdrawal in Northern Minnesota,” said Congressman Emmer.

“My office plans on talking with the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) next week to debrief on what this means in terms of where we are at the moment, and what the timeline is for potential changes in resource management plans, administration of the minerals program, and the continued monitoring of Sage Hen habitat and populations,” stated Congressman Amodei. “We additionally intend to drill deeper into what this means with our local stakeholders, which include: the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the Nevada Farm Bureau, the Nevada Cattleman’s Association, State BLM and Forest Service officials, and conservation groups. If the bottom line is that local conservation, recreation, agribusiness, and minerals communities get to have a meaningful say in what we do about Sage Hen habitat and population in Nevada – then thank you Mr. President and thank you Mr. Secretary."

Background:

Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

Cancellation of 10-Million-Acre Mineral Withdrawal

Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it canceled its withdrawal application and the withdrawal proposal relating to approximately 10 million acres of public and National Forest system lands located within Sagebrush Focal Areas (SFAs) in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. The BLM has determined that the lands are no longer needed in connection with the proposed withdrawal. The BLM has also terminated the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement evaluating this application and proposal.

The BLM determined the proposal to withdraw 10 million acres was unreasonable in light of the data that showed that mining affected less than .1 percent of sage-grouse-occupied range.

“The proposal to withdraw 10 million acres to prevent 10,000 from potential mineral development was a complete overreach,” said Acting BLM Director Mike Nedd. “Secretary Zinke has said from the beginning that by working closely with the states, who are on the front lines and a valued partner in protecting the health of these lands, we can be successful in conserving greater sage grouse habitat without stifling economic development and job growth. And that’s what we intend to do—protect important habitat while also being a good neighbor to states and local communities.” 

The lands will continue to be managed in accordance with existing plans, programs, policies and regulations in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.  They had been temporarily segregated, or closed to new mining claims for 2 years when the Department originally proposed the lands for withdrawal in 2015, while the agency studied whether locatable mineral exploration and mining projects would adversely affect habitat important to the greater sage grouse. That temporary segregation period expired September 24, 2017. To read the full BLM notice of cancellation click HERE.

Notice of Intent to Amend Land Use Plans Regarding Greater Sage-Grouse

On March 31, 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Nevada held that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended, (NEPA) by failing to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the designation of Sagebrush Focal Areas (SFA) in the Nevada and Northeastern California Greater Sage-Grouse Resource Management Plan (RMP) Amendment in Nevada. In order to comply with the court’s order and to address issues raised by various interested parties, the BLM intends to consider the possibility of amending some, all or none of the BLM land use plans that were amended or revised in 2014 and 2015 regarding Greater Sage-Grouse conservation in the States of California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Montana (“2015 Sage-Grouse Plans”). By this Notice the BLM is announcing the beginning of the scoping process to solicit public comments on Greater Sage-Grouse land management issues that could warrant land use plan amendments. To read the full BLM notice of intent click HERE.

Western Caucus Analysis:

In September of 2015, the Obama Administration proposed to withdraw approximately 10 million acres of Sage Grouse habitat from new mining operations in an area that contained more than 7,000 active mining claims. While this proposed mineral withdrawal was being analyzed, an immediate two-year moratorium occurred and an additional 20-year moratorium was considered. This withdrawal was shamefully political in nature, as less than 0.1% or 171,000 acres of actual Sage Grouse habitat exists in the 10 million acre withdrawal area, nor does the bird have threatened or endangered status. Today, the Department of Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced cancellation of this job-killing mineral withdrawal.

In addition to scrapping the mining moratorium, BLM and DOI also announced today that the agencies are taking steps to unwind the de facto Sage Grouse listing by preparing Resource Management Plan (RMP) amendments to the BLM land use plans that were amended and revised by the Obama Administration in 2014 and 2015. At that time, the Obama Administration amended 98 BLM and Forest Service land-use plans to incorporate overly-restrictive Sage Grouse regulations on approximately 70 million acres of federal land in 10 Western states. The effect of these amended plans are lost jobs, restricted public access and severe economic damage throughout the region. The Notice of Intent which will begin the process to rollback the Obama amendments is expected to be filed next week, and publication in the Federal Register will initiate a 45-day public comment period.

Hardrock mining generates more than 1.2 million jobs and provides approximately $3 trillion in added value to America’s gross domestic product (GDP) – nearly 15 percent of U.S. GDP.

Presidents are authorized to withdraw unlimited areas from mineral entry for up to 20 years. Renewal authority is allowed after the initial moratorium. However, the Obama Administration continuously abused this authority, stifling American mineral exploration important to infrastructure and job creation in order to accomplish misguided political objectives.

In January of 2012, then Secretary of the Interior Salazar withdrew 1.2 million acres of federal lands in Arizona from future uranium and other hardrock mining operations for a 20-year period. The moratorium prevented operations at 26 new mines, squandered tens of millions of dollars spent on exploration and resulted in 2,000 mining claims becoming virtually worthless. Further, this area unjustly targeted by the Obama Administration contained one of the largest deposits of high grade ore in the country, estimated to provide a 40-year supply of electricity for 40 million people and generate $29 billion for our economy.

In January of 2017, the Obama Administration formally launched a process to withdraw approximately 235,000 acres in northeast Minnesota from future mineral leasing, exploration and development. This action immediately placed this massive area off limits to development for up to two years while the withdrawal is being considered. The proposed Minnesota withdrawal jeopardizes hundreds of millions of dollars in investments, threatens to kill thousands of jobs and will cost our economy billions of dollars.

Members of the Western Caucus have been leading the charge and working with the current administration to reject and overturn these massive mineral withdrawals from the previous administration that were political in nature.

More information and previous statements from Western Caucus Members in relation to the Sage Grouse can be found HERE and HERE.




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