Representative Inslee Stands Up for National Parks, Joins NPCA in Denouncing Dangerous Mining Provision in House Budget Bill

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   December 2, 2005
Contact:   Sean Smith, NPCA, 206-903-1444 ext. 21


Representative Inslee Stands Up for National Parks, Joins NPCA in Denouncing Dangerous Mining Provision in House Budget Bill

- Statement by Sean Smith, Northwest Regional Director, National Parks Conservation Association:

“We appreciate Representative Inslee’s holding this press conference today to talk about the dangerous provision in the U.S. House of Representatives proposed budget reconciliation legislation (H.R. 4241) that could sell national park lands for mining and commercial development.

“Even after the public outcry denouncing legislation the House Resource Committee drafted to sell off 15 national parks and commercialize the entire system, and despite assurances by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo that the reconciliation package he proposed would not make any national park lands available for sale, alarming provisions that would allow mining companies, real estate developers, or others to patent or purchase land in a number of national parks as well as other public lands and then develop it as they see fit lies tucked away in the House version of the bill (Sections 6202 and 6204).

“Specifically, Section 6202 would lift the moratorium on patenting of mining claims, including unpatented claims within national park boundaries. Under Section 6204, claims would be allowed to be patented for any purpose that would ‘facilitate sustainable economic development;’ would not have to contain valuable minerals; and could be claimed in huge blocks. This selling off and carving up of park lands would impact the experiences of park visitors, mar scenic vistas, threaten wildlife and cultural and historic resources, and increase development within the parks—all counter to the efforts of the National Park Service to preserve America’s national park lands for present and future generations.

“While there are no unpatented mining claims within national parks in the state of Washington, there are more than 650 unpatented claims in parks throughout the west, from Wrangell-St. Elias in Alaska down to Mojave National Preserve in California.

“Lands outside the parks are also at risk. Here in Washington, there are approximately a dozen claims totaling more than 200 acres within five miles of North Cascades National Park, eight claims totaling 100 acres within five miles of Mount Rainier National Park, and at Crater Lake approximately a whopping 750 historic claims within 5 miles of the park that could be exploited.

“These claims may also make it difficult to complete the national park system. Given the Park Service’s difficulties in dealing with existing claims and other inholdings, it is unlikely the Service would recommend lands riddled with mining claims for inclusion in the system.

“Further, this bill makes it possible for non-mining interests to privatize national park lands. Nothing in the bill language prevents current patent holders from selling their park claims to third parties, allowing for commercial development.

“In addition, the bill hugely short-changes taxpayers. While it increases the cost of formally patenting mining claims, it does not require patent holders to pay any royalties to the American public for the minerals extracted. Potentially, this means minerals of untold value could be sold by the federal government for a fraction of their worth.

“Across the West, people are coming out in opposition to these changes. Just yesterday six Western governors, including Washington’s Christine Gregoire sent a letter to the Senate Budget Committee urging the removal of the House Mining subtitle from the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. Specifically, these governors are concerned that the changes would undermine local planning efforts and the ability of average citizens to enjoy public lands.

“This massive corporate giveaway of our public lands and national heritage essentially places a FOR SALE sign on our national parks. We should be working to preserve and invest in our national parks, not put them on the auction block. All of Congress should join Rep. Inslee in rejecting this harmful provision.”


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