NPCA submitted the following positions to members of the House Natural Resources Committee ahead of a markup scheduled for September 26, 2018.
H.R. 4644: Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act – NPCA supports this legislation that would permanently withdraw federal mineral rights on approximately 30,000 acres of National Forest System lands adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. This landscape, including the nation’s first National Park, is currently threatened by two proposed industrial-scale gold mines.
Industrial-scale operations, one potentially within view of the Roosevelt Arch that marks the northern entrance to Yellowstone, could have disastrous consequences on the environment, the local businesses that depend on the area’s thriving tourist economy, and the park experience that draws millions of visitors from across the globe. These visitors come for the abundant wildlife, world class fishing, recreational opportunities, and scenic vistas. These public lands also play a vital role in the health of the wildlife and waters of our nation’s first National Park and of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
The proximity of the proposed mines to the park would impair the park’s air quality, night skies, and globally-unique geothermal resources, as well as the iconic grizzly bear and a long list of other valued wildlife. Additionally, the proposed mines could have disastrous water quality impacts on the Yellowstone River which serves as the lifeblood of central and southeast Montana before feeding into the Missouri River.
Gosar Amendment 132 to H.R. 4644: NPCA opposes this amendment to amend the bill to be a seven-year mineral withdrawal, rather than permanent. The northern gateway to Yellowstone National Park should receive permanent protection from industrial scale gold mining. A short-term withdrawal does not ensure the future of the environment, the local businesses that depend on the area’s thriving tourist economy, and the park experience that draws millions of visitors from across the globe. These public lands under consideration also play a vital role in the health of the wildlife and waters of our nation’s first national park and of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Gosar Amendment 133 to H.R. 4644: NPCA opposes this amendment to require the Secretary to obtain written approval from any owner of non-federally owned lands that are located within the boundaries of the proposed withdrawal before the withdrawal can be completed. The mineral withdrawal identified in H.R. 4644 only applies to federal National Forest Service lands, therefore private lands that fall within the boundary of the withdrawal area are not subject to the withdrawal. A private landowner does not have the authority to determine what occurs on adjacent public lands nor do they have an implied right to access minerals on adjacent lands unless they have valid existing mineral rights.
Gosar Amendment 135 to H.R. 4644: NPCA opposes this amendment which would prevent the withdrawal from taking effect until the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Secretary of Commerce jointly issue a finding that such withdrawal does not conflict with Executive Order 13817 (82 Fed. Reg. 60835). Executive Order 13817 does not have baring in this withdrawal as the potential minerals are not defined as critical minerals per the Final List of Critical Minerals 2018 (83 FR 23295). In keeping with our position on Gosar amendment 132, impairing the immediacy and permeance of the mining withdrawal simply delays the security of the health of the wildlife and waters of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Gosar Amendment 136 to H.R. 4644: NPCA opposes this amendment to expand the list of uses not affected by this bill to include mining claim and mineral lease. The sole purpose of this bill is to protect the gateway to Yellowstone from new mineral development, therefore this amendment would defeat the sole intent of this bill.
Gosar Amendment 137 to H.R. 4644: NPCA opposes this amendment that would require review of all mineral withdrawals set in place during the previous administration. This is a potentially harmful and arbitrary requirement, especially since many withdrawals are already subject to a review toward the end of the withdrawal period, per the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).
Gosar Amendment 139 to H.R. 4644: NPCA opposes this amendment that would require Congressional approval of any withdrawals, or an extension of a withdrawal, aggregating 85,000 acres or more. This is again an arbitrary requirement that without reason strips agencies of their authority and ability to recommend a withdrawal after a full review period.
H.R. 5727: Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018 – NPCA opposes this bill, as it will be amended, because it does not adequately protect wilderness quality lands, downgrades protection for past proposed National Conservation Areas to National Recreation Areas and continues to include “cherry stemmed” routes for motorized activities that could compromise the wilderness values adjacent to them. We continue to be concerned with the bill’s failure to resolve the State of Utah’s litigation over Revised Statute (R.S.) 2477 routes located within designated wilderness and NCAs, removing conservation certainty and leaving these areas at risk for future motorized route maintenance, improvement, and development that is inconsistent with the Wilderness Act and other conservation designations.
H.R. 6784: Manage our Wolves Act – NPCA opposes this legislation that would remove federal protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states, an action that NPCA opposes as it bypasses the Endangered Species Act delisting process and would impact wolves in national parks across the country.
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Natalie LevineClimate and Conservation Program Manager.