Category Archives: PARKS

Obama Administration Protects 30,000 Acres from New Mining Claims near Yellowstone National Park

A herd of bison move from left to right across a grassy hillside with foggy mountains in the background.

Date: November 21, 2016
Mike Illenberg;

PRAY, Mont. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined Under Secretary of Agriculture Robert Bonnie, U.S. Senator Jon Tester and Montana Governor Steve Bullock to announce actions to protect important land near Yellowstone National Park from the threat of mining.

New mining claims will now be prohibited on approximately 30,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land near the park’s northern entrance. The segregation will be in effect for two years while the Departments of Interior and Agriculture evaluate whether to withdraw this land from new mining claims for an additional 20 years, consistent with the Secretary’s authority.

“There are good places to mine for gold, but the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park is not one of them,” said Secretary Jewell. “As we celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service, today’s action helps ensure that Yellowstone’s watershed, wildlife and the tourism-based economy of local communities will not be threatened by the impacts of mineral development.”

“As trustees of our national parks and forests, taking a time-out to balance the benefits of our natural resources and recreation-based local economies against mineral extraction is a commitment we owe the American taxpayer,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This need is much more pressing where the potential risks to our extraordinary natural resources and the health of our rural towns are significant.”

Yellowstone National Park saw record breaking visitation in 2015 — 4.1 million visitors — many of whom came to experience the spectacular scenery, abundance of wildlife and relatively undisturbed natural conditions of this remarkable ecosystem. Maintaining high water quality and high-value fisheries are critical to local fisherman and outfitting and guiding businesses. A particular draw for visitors to the Park and the surrounding National Forest lands are the thousands of elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and bison that migrate from winter ranges in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho to high-elevation summer ranges near the core of Yellowstone National Park. The proposed mineral withdrawal provides critical linkages to major corridors for wildlife migrating to and from Yellowstone.

Neither the Yellowstone segregation nor any withdrawal would prohibit ongoing or future mining exploration or extraction operations on valid pre-existing claims. An exploration permit for the Emigrant tract is currently pending with the Montana Department of Environmentally Quality. Neither the segregation nor the proposed withdrawal would prohibit any other authorized uses on these lands.

During the segregation period, the agencies will conduct an environmental analysis to determine if the lands should be withdrawn for a period of 20 years. This process will invite participation by the public, tribes, environmental groups, industry, state and local government, as well as other stakeholders. Only Congress can legislate a permanent withdrawal.

A 90-day public comment period on the proposed withdrawal will end February 20, 2017. The Custer-Gallatin National Forest will conduct a public meeting for the proposal on January 18, 2017 from 4-7 p.m. at the Shane Center in Livingston, Montana. During the public comment period, written comments about the proposed mineral withdrawal may be submitted to:  Supervisor’s Office of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, 10 East Babcock Ave., Bozeman, Montana.

re-posted from twitter

Op-Ed: Don’t Advertise in Parks, Invest in Them

We should all be working to preserve the parks as we know them

Our National Parks represent natural beauty, history, and the opportunity to get away from the clamor of the maddening world.    Photo: Ian Shive/Tandemstock

I love the national parks like I love my life. When my husband Frank and I stumbled upon them on a road trip around the country in 1995, I could hardly believe that places so beautiful and perfect remain on the face of the Earth—right in our backyard, no less.

In each of the 178 units of the National Park System that I’ve visited from Alaska to the U.S. Virgin Islands, I’ve found some persistent item of inspiration. I revel among thousands of other visitors in the natural beauty and history that our parks represent and the opportunity to get away from the clamor of the maddening world.

But I suspect that few people who enjoy the parks have any idea of the threats to their continued survival as we know them, or the role we should be playing to help them continue, as the 1916 Congressional act establishing the National Park Service goes, “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

“What would you think if you knew there’s a move to increase the corporate presence in national parks?” I recently asked a young couple walking around Bear Lake in Rocky Mountains National Park.
“What!?” they exclaimed in unison. “I’d say that’s a dumb idea. We come out here to get away from all that.”

On my flight home, I got into a conversation with my seatmate about how much he loved the parks in California where he grew up. He was stunned when I mentioned the Director’s Order 21 that proposes to open the door to an increased corporate presence in national parks and require park service employees to raise funds to manage the parks. I told him that in the 100 years since the Park Service was established to manage and protect our park this was strictly verboten.

“So why are they doing this?” he asked.

“Money,” I said.

I told him about the tremendous backlog in funds that the Park Service is reporting ($11.5 billion) and explained that Congress had failed repeatedly throughout this century to allocate sufficient amounts of our tax dollars to maintain the parks. For example, over the eight years of President Obama’s tenure, Congress appropriated nearly $700 million, or 3 percent less than the amount the president proposed. Obama also requested hundreds of millions of dollars in mandatory funding to address maintenance and other needs, but Congress failed to enact legislation to support these requests. I told him about the efforts of some leaders to gut our public lands entirely, and how, according to the League of Conservation Voters, the leader of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and her counterpart in the House have a pro-environmental voting record of four percent and zero percent, respectively.

Like millions of Americans that love and enjoy our national parks, the people I talked with took it for granted that they are protected into perpetuity and that they’ll always be there for us.  They were horrified by how much they don’t know about the precarious position these places are in. Each considered it a breach of the public trust that such dramatic changes could conceivable be enacted under our noses, without our knowing. I encouraged them to research the issues online and join the organizations resisting it.

I hope your interest is sufficiently piqued that you will address it, too.

Photo: Courtesy of Audrey Peterman

Audrey Peterman is president and co-founder of Earthwise Productions, Inc., an environmental consulting and publishing firm focused on connecting the public lands system and the American public.

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