Press Release Mar 29, 2018

Forest Service Review Echoes Calls to Protect Doorstep to Yellowstone

The U.S. Forest Service draft environmental review proposes a 20-year withdrawal of approximately 30,370 acres of public lands near Yellowstone National Park which have been targeted for new mining activities.

BOZEMAN, MT – The U.S. Forest Service draft environmental review released today proposes a 20-year withdrawal of approximately 30,370 acres of public lands near Yellowstone National Park which have been targeted for new mining activities. Large scale gold mining on public lands north of Yellowstone National Park could pose threats to local communities, wildlife, recreation, and waterways including Yellowstone River, as described in the draft environmental review that was released today.

“The Forest Service’s review echoes the concerns raised by more than 30,000 National Parks Conservation Association members and supporters: these proposed mines would threaten Yellowstone wildlife, visitor experience and adjacent communities,“ said Stephanie Adams, Yellowstone Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association. "National Parks Conservation Association commends the Forest Service for its science-backed examination of the resources at stake on these lands and urges them to withdrawal these public lands for the full twenty years.

The environmental review was conducted to evaluate a U.S. Forest Service proposal to prevent new mining on more than 30,000 acres of public lands, in the Emigrant Gulch and Crevice regions near Yellowstone National Park for up to 20 years. As a result of the November 2016 proposal, the U.S. Department of Interior called for a two-year time-out on new mining activities to provide time to conduct a formal, public study of the lands and connected waterways.

“We commend the hard work and dedication of all involved in the effort to permanently protect Montana’s Yellowstone Gateway communities,” said Marne Hayes, Executive Director of Business for Montana’s Outdoors. “There is no doubt that these landscapes serve our businesses, both in direct effect to industry and as a draw to a way of life in Montana. The bottom line is that the border to Yellowstone National Park is no place for exploratory mining, and the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition has taken their message all the way to our decision makers in DC to ensure that a critical look be taken at the threat of mining in this pristine environment. We support the protection of our natural assets, and thank the US Forest Service for considering the voices of those who live and work here.”

Two foreign-backed mining companies have revealed plans to develop two large scale gold mines in Montana’s Park County, the year-round gateway to Yellowstone National Park. If mine development is allowed to proceed, one of the proposed mines would be built within eyesight of Yellowstone’s famous Roosevelt Arch. The other is proposed just north of the park, above the historic Chico Hot Springs Resort.

“Public lands north of Yellowstone Park deserve the protection from industrial mining embodied in the U.S. Forest Service’s twenty-year withdrawal proposal, and more,” said Jenny Harbine, Earthjustice Staff Attorney. These landscapes form some of the last refuges for our nation’s most iconic symbols of wildness—grizzly bears, lynx, and wolverines. We applaud the Forest Service for taking this important step toward temporary protection and we will continue the fight to protect Yellowstone’s gateway until the threat from mining is permanently removed.”

The withdrawal proposal is a major step towards addressing the concerns raised by the nearly 400 businesses that make up the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, along with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Senator Jon Tester, Representative Greg Gianforte, the Park County Commission, numerous local elected officials, community members, and local and national conservation organizations.

“We’re pleased that the Forest Service is standing with Montana’s local businesses,“ said Caroline Byrd, Executive Director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Clean water, abundant wildlife, access to public lands, and beautiful vistas support our booming outdoor economy. Replace these things with industrial mining development, and it risks the economy and a way of life for our region. Yellowstone is more valuable than gold. Thank you, Forest Service, for listening to the voices of Montanans. We look forward to working with business owners, Yellowstone gateway communities, and our Montana delegation to permanently protect these public lands from the threat of gold mines.”

The administrative withdrawal of these public lands proposed by the U.S. Forest Service is authorized to last only be up to twenty years. Permanent protection requires legislative action. After extensively meeting with the local community, Montana Senator Tester introduced the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act (S. 941) in April of 2017 to permanently protect this landscape from gold mining. At the end of last year Montana Congressman Gianforte introduced a companion bill (H.R. 4644) in the House of Representatives.

"Our community asked for protection of our public lands from mining and we are proud of the hard work and commitment from so many people, especially the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, to get to this point,” said Michelle Uberuaga, Executive Director of the Park County Environmental Council. Mining in Yellowstone’s gateway not only threatens our jobs and our quality of life, if developed, these mines would industrialize critical habitat for grizzly bears, cutoff migratory corridors for elk, and risk poisoning the Yellowstone River with acid runoff. We’re thankful that the Forest Service recognizes these risks and has put a pause button on mining. Now we have to work together to make it permanent.”

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