Policy Update Jul 14, 2017

Position on H.R. 3115, Superior National Forest Land Exchange Act

NPCA submitted the following position to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands ahead of a legislative hearing scheduled for July 14, 2017.

NPCA opposes this legislation, as it would force a land exchange between the U.S. Forest Service and a private mining company, PolyMet Mining Inc., paving the way for a controversial mining project that threatens the waters, wetlands and wildlife of Lake Superior and the national parks along its shores. The land exchange involves over 6,600 acres of Superior National Forest, upstream from the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior, traded for the construction of an open-pit copper-nickel mine, threatening an area rich in biodiversity.

The proposed exchange lands contain highly treasured habitat for several endangered species including the northern long-eared bat, which also uses habitat on nearby Isle Royale National Park. In current, pending litigation, several groups have asked the court to determine whether federal agencies complied with the Endangered Species Act in approving the land exchange. Additionally, a number of groups are currently challenging the valuation of the land under consideration for exchange to the mining company, noting discrepancies in the appraisals for similar lands in the area. Both of these issues involve questions of federal law that belong in federal court. However, this bill seeks to circumvent judicial review and compel a land exchange that may undervalue public lands and shortchange taxpayers, and violate the Endangered Species Act. This legislation is premature given no permits have been issued for the mine, thus there is no urgency requiring Congress to act on this matter. NPCA urges the subcommittee not to advance this legislation.