The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition is asking the U.S. Forest Service to halt mining on land just north of Yellowstone National Park.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the Coalition (comprising nearly 200 businesses in Park County) and several environmental groups wrote a letter to the regional forester, asking them to start an “administrative mineral withdrawal” on 31,400 acres of land just east of the Paradise Valley. The Coalition said mining could harm the region’s tourism industry, which provides big business to Park County.
Indeed, as the Coalition explicitly stated in their letter, “Mining adjacent to Yellowstone National Park will never be worth the risk to our local economy and our way of life.” From the Chronicle:
The proposal centers on two areas of public lands near where companies have applied to look for gold within the last year — one near Emigrant and one near Jardine.
The British Columbia-based Lucky Minerals Inc. applied to search for gold on Forest Service land on Emigrant Peak, but the company backed off of that when the agency told them they would conduct an environmental analysis of the project. The company’s head said that process would take too long.
The company still has an application with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for exploration on private land. DEQ public policy director Kristi Ponozzo said they are still working on an environmental analysis for that project. She said they expect to release it this summer, but not until at least July.
Crevice Mining Group LLC applied with the state for exploratory drilling on private lands near Jardine, just north of the Yellowstone National Park border. The company already held a small miner’s exclusion statement, which allows them to mine with 5 acres of surface disturbance.
The company planned to combine the exploration license with their small miner’s permit, but DEQ decided the application was incomplete and sent it back to the company. The company can submit an amended application, but Ponozzo said they have not done so.
Blocking mining on the public lands in the areas wouldn’t affect the companies’ applications with the state, because both are on private lands. But opponents of the mines worry that the companies are eyeballing federal land for the future.
Joe Josephson of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition said he and the Coalition believe that, if these applications go through, both companies will eventually make a move toward public lands, which Josephson finds worrisome. In this case, he believes withdrawal is the only means of protection for these lands.
Although the Forest Service could make an administrative withdrawal, it would only be a temporary measure. Congress has the power to make land withdrawals permanent, however.
To withdraw minerals from consideration, the Forest Service will have to apply to the Bureau of Land Management; the Chronicle reached out to the U.S. Forest Service’s Region 1 office in Missoula but did not hear a reply.