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BLM cancels move to restrict mining in environmentally sensitive land in California desert

By in Press Enterprise on February 8, 2018

By Jim Steinberg

The federal Bureau of Land Management this week canceled plans, developed under the Obama administration, to remove 1.3 million acres of environmentally sensitive California lands from new mining activity.

The Trump Administration’s BLM said Tuesday that after a review of mineral exploration levels and mining data in the California desert, as well as the “expected impacts from future activities,” the agency concluded that mining operations, subject to existing environmental regulations, “do not pose a significant threat to the protection of cultural, biological and scientific values.”

“This is a full assault on our public lands,” said Phil Hanceford, conservation director of The Wilderness Society, in Denver.

An environmental analysis associated with the proposed withdrawal has also been terminated, the BLM announcement said.

“This sets a bad precedent for National Conservation Lands in general, where mining could be allowed in all units,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Los Angeles.

Nationally, there are about 36 million acres in the National Conservation Lands program, designed to “offer the American people exceptional opportunities for hunting, solitude, wildlife viewing, fishing, history exploration, scientific research, and a wide range of traditional uses,” says the BLM website.

“These National Conservation Lands have been identified as being a key part in keeping our irreplaceable California Desert Conservation Area connected and healthy in a world dealing with a quickly changing climate,” Anderson said.

The Obama Administration’s planned prohibition on new mining activity was directed at National Conservation Lands that fell into the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan area, which set aside 600 square miles of federal lands for future large-scale renewable energy projects.

“The purpose of the proposed withdrawal is to protect conservation lands that provide important protections for biological and cultural resources from adverse impacts of mining,” the BLM said in a statement on Dec. 28, 2016.

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