Policy Update Apr 26, 2024

Position on H.R. 764, H.R. 2925, H.R. 3195 & H.R. 3397

NPCA submitted the following positions to members of the House of Representatives ahead of floor votes scheduled for the week of April 29, 2024.

Vote NO on H.R. 764 – Trust the Science Act: NPCA opposes this legislation which would direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from gray wolves in the lower-48 states. Following decades of hunting, trapping and poisoning, the gray wolf population in the lower-48 numbered fewer than 1,000 when listed as endangered in 1974. Thanks to the increased resources and protections of the ESA, gray wolves are now beginning to naturally return to National Park Service (NPS)-managed lands in Colorado, the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, helping to restore predator-prey dynamics and support ecosystem health.

H.R. 764 would threaten gray wolf recovery by applying a blanket delisting to populations across the lower-48 states, ignoring the nuanced status of recovery across the states in question. For decades, taxpayers have invested in the recovery of the species and federal, state and tribal wildlife agencies have worked together to manage the opportunities and challenges of restoration of this often-vilified species. H.R. 764 would cut short one of North America’s great ongoing collaborative wildlife conservation success stories and undercut the core principles of the ESA.

Vote NO on H.R. 2925 – Mining Regulatory Clarity Act: NPCA opposes this bill, which disrupts the effective management of our public lands, including vital conservation efforts in national parks and monuments, by dramatically expanding the rights of mining claim holders over all other land users. While the bill is pitched as a “fix” to the ancillary uses issue raised by the Rosemont decision, H.R. 2925 goes further by abolishing the discovery requirement altogether, one of the longest standing pieces of the claim system under the 1872 mining law. Under current law, the discovery of a valuable mineral must be proven on a claim for said claim to be considered valid.

The proof of discovery is essential for conservation tools such as mineral withdrawals, monument designations and even the creation of new national parks. Importantly, when any of these conservation tools are used, all existing and valid rights are still preserved. Under Section 2(e)(1)(B) of H.R. 2925, claimants would not be required to prove the discovery of a valuable mineral to hold or validate their claim to the land. This removes the ability of the federal government to contest superfluous claims on lands reserved for conservation. Mining companies would receive a statutory right to permanently occupy and dump their toxic mining waste on their claims within federal public lands. Despite what proponents contend, this legislation does not return the mining law to the status quo.

Valid claims pose a threat to park resources due to the potential for new exploration on these claims as allowed under the Mining in the Parks Act. There are currently 1,100 active mine claims held by private entities in 15 national parks, covering thousands of acres. Many of these claims were patented prior to the creation of the surrounding park but over 400 remain unpatented and therefore subject to the current discovery requirement. Under this legislation, the unpatented claims across the park system would effectively become private property and NPS would have less power to challenge potentially damaging activities on these lands. The impact of this bill would be greater for National Monuments across federal land management agencies, where there are an estimated over 2,000 active mine claims that may be affected. H.R. 2925 is the wrong approach for addressing the actual issues with our mining policy and would only exacerbate the threat of mining in and around our precious national parks.

Vote NO on H.R. 3195 – Superior National Forest Restoration Act: NPCA opposes this legislation which seeks to overturn Public Land Order 7917, the 20-year mineral withdrawal in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park. NPCA supports the 20-year withdrawal and will continue to seek permanent protections for this watershed against harmful mining projects. Public Land Order 7917 comes after a thorough environmental assessment demonstrated the risks sulfide mining poses to the Rainy River watershed in Minnesota, which includes Voyageurs National Park and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. An NPCA hydrology report put a spotlight on the dangers mining activities pose, finding that sulfide mines as far as 100 miles upstream threaten the connected waterways in and around Voyageurs. Even small amounts of this pollution are detrimental to public health and the world-class fishing, recreation and wildlife Voyageurs is known for.

Proponents of the Twin Metals mine in the withdrawn area argue that the project could be an important source of critical minerals, including copper and nickel, which are necessary for a variety of industries including renewable energy and electric vehicles. While NPCA understands that there is necessary demand for these minerals, the mining must be done responsibly with the highest environmental safeguards and the greatest consideration for national parks, special places, sacred sites and local communities. The best available science has shown that the Rainy River watershed is too sensitive a landscape for mining. H.R. 3195 would roll back protections for the watershed by undoing the mineral withdrawal, reinstating mineral leases, fast-tracking environmental reviews and blocking any judicial review. With current technology and regulatory systems, there is no better way to protect this irreplaceable landscape than withdrawing it from mineral activities.

Vote NO on H.R. 3397 – WEST Act of 2023: NPCA opposes this legislation which would undermine the public process undertaken by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to provide a clear, thoughtful approach to conservation, restoration and recreation on our public lands. The Public Lands Rule is a commonsense way to ensure conservation is on equal footing with other multiple uses on public lands and is consistent with the current law as is outlined in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). Under FLPMA, the BLM’s multiple-use mandate already includes conservation. However, the agency has a long-standing reputation for prioritizing extraction and grazing activities above recreation and the protection of wildlife, watersheds and cultural resources. The new rule places conservation of public lands on equal footing with other multiple uses during resource management planning. This more accurate and balanced approach to land management is critical to the long-term health and condition of land and waterways.

Across the West, many of our national parks share boundaries, watersheds and migration routes with BLM lands. What happens outside a park’s borders can dramatically impact the water and wildlife inside a park – which is why it’s important to ensure adjacent lands are well-managed. This rule would greatly benefit the future of our public lands by making them more resilient to fire and drought while also ensuring natural and cultural resources and wildlife are well-protected. Having healthy lands is a smart approach for the future of BLM, and for communities across the country. H.R. 3397 would undermine the important progress made in the rule and undermine the engagement of citizens who shared their thoughts during the public comment period.