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Miners Oppose Belated Enviro Intervention in Ten Million Acre Sage-Grouse Lockup Case

May 10, 2017 | by William Perry Pendley

DENVER, CO.  A 120-year-old nonprofit, non-partisan mining trade association with thousands of members today filed its opposition to the belated attempt by four environmental groups to intervene in a lawsuit it filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C. in 2016 challenging a decision by federal officials, allegedly to protect the sage-grouse, to restrict unlawfully mineral exploration and development on millions of acres of federal land in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.  The American Exploration & Mining Association (AEMA)(once Northwest Mining Association) of Spokane, Washington, represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), alleged that the federal agencies involved and their officials lack authority to withdraw the land from operation of the General Mining Law of 1872 and failed to provide for adequate public participation in the process by which federal land use planning documents are amended and revised.  In September of 2015, the Obama administration announced that it would not place the sage-grouse on the Endangered Species Act list, but nonetheless, declared that it will withdraw highly mineralized lands from public use.  Nearly a year (359 days) after the lawsuit was filed, the groups filed their motion.

“The court must reject the motion to intervene because these groups lack standing, that is, they have no legal right to sue, and thus do not have the right to intervene; moreover, they filed a similar motion to intervene in late 2015 showing they could have filed on a more timely basis,” said William Perry Pendley, MSLF president.

The greater sage-grouse is the largest grouse species in North America with a range that stretches across 165 million acres in eleven western states:  California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.  The sage-grouse are dependent on contiguous sagebrush habitat during all seasons for breeding, nesting, brood-rearing, and wintering.  Greater sage-grouse population numbers are difficult to measure because of their large-scale, camouflaged habitat.

In March of 2010, the FWS published “12-Month Finding for Petitions to List the Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as Threatened or Endangered.”  The FWS found that listing of the greater sage-grouse was “warranted, but precluded” by higher listing priorities.  This finding prompted unprecedented state-led conservation efforts, especially in Wyoming.  These efforts were successful, because on September 22, 2015, citing the success of collaborative conservation efforts, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that listing of greater sage-grouse was no longer warranted and would be withdrawn from the candidate species list.

In September of 2015, the BLM and Forest Service finalized their Wyoming Greater Sage-Grouse Land Use Plan Amendments and dismissed protests by the WSGA and others.  Similar plans affect California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Utah.

Mountain States Legal Foundation, created in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system.  Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.

For more information:  American Exploration & Mining Association v. U.S. Department of the Interior

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