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Miners Lament Appeals Court Ruling Upholding Feds’ Million Acre Land Withdrawal

Dec 12, 2017 | by William Perry Pendley

DENVER, CO.  A 122-year-old nonprofit, non-partisan mining trade association with thousands of members expressed its grave disappointment with the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upholding three rulings by an Arizona federal district court that validated an edict by the Secretary of the Interior closing over a million acres of federal land in northwestern Arizona to mining.  Represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), the American Exploration & Mining Association (AEMA), claimed in its 2012 complaint and later briefings and arguments that Interior Secretary Salazar’s January of 2012 order that withdrew land from entry under the General Mineral Law and locked-up vast amounts of the nation’s highest-grade uranium ore violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the constitutional bar against establishment of religion, and the National Forest Management Act.  The “Arizona Strip” includes Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land. 

“The three-judge panel could not have been more wrong when it based its decision on the purported desire of Congress to grant the Executive power to close federal land to lawful uses,” said William Perry Pendley of MSLF.  “The entire history surrounding the passage of FLPMA shows Congress specifically intended to limit the Executive’s authority to withdraw large tracts of land.  By ignoring this history, the panel essentially granted the Executive unbridled authority to lock-up federal lands to lawful uses such as mining.”

The Arizona Strip, which lies north of the Colorado River in northern Arizona, is bordered to the south by the northern rim of Grand Canyon National Park.  In the 1984 Arizona Wilderness Act, Congress designated 250,000 acres of federal land on or near the Arizona Strip as wilderness and released 600,000 acres of land in the same area for multiple use, including uranium mining, as a result of an historic compromise among environmental groups, uranium mining interests, the livestock industry, and others.

In July of 2009, Secretary Salazar proposed to withdraw from operation of the General Mining Law 633,547 acres of BLM lands and 360,002 acres of National Forest lands in the Arizona Strip for up to 20 years to “protect the Grand Canyon watershed from adverse effects of locatable hardrock mineral exploration and mining.”  AEMA opposed the withdrawal by filing comments demonstrating that uranium mining is not a threat to the environment of the Grand Canyon or the Colorado River watershed, given the scores of federal and state laws enacted to protect those resources.  Nevertheless, in January of 2012, Salazar issued his order.

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. Zinke

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