Published since 1946
Interior Blocks Mining in Montana's Paradise Valley
Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on October 8 the withdrawal of 30,000 acres of federal lands north of Yellowstone National Park from mining access. The decision comes after the U.S. Forest Service completed an environmental assessment to “to analyze the effects of withdrawing approximately 30,370 acres of National Forest System lands in the historic Emigrant mining district and the Jardine/Crevice mining district to protect and preserve the scenic integrity, important wildlife corridors, and high quality recreation values contained on those lands.” After the assessment was completed in late May, the agency issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the proposed alternative to withdraw the area from location and entry under mining laws for 20 years, but not from leasing under mineral and geothermal laws. In late September, Regional Forester Leanne Marten sent the recommended alternative to the Bureau of Land Management.
According to the FONSI, “These areas provide a unique combination of special places and outstanding resource values directly north of Yellowstone National Park. As part of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, the proposed withdrawal area provides important wildlife habitat and corridors for grizzly bear, Canada lynx, and a variety of other wildlife species. Similarly, the area exhibits high quality outdoor recreation values because of its spectacular scenery, scenic integrity, abundance of wildlife and relatively undisturbed characteristics, the maintenance of which is significant to the local economy. The area requested for withdrawal is also the headwaters of a number of streams that eventually flow into the Yellowstone River. Maintenance of water quality and high value aquatic resources are important economic values for local recreational fisheries and uses.”
Secretary Zinke announced the decision at a press conference and signing ceremony. In a press statement he said, “Access to public lands and water has allowed the Paradise Valley to build a world-class hunting, fishing, tourism and recreation economy. Whether it's enjoying the natural hot springs, fly fishing the Yellowstone, or hiking up Emigrant Peak, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy this beautiful region. I fully support multiple use of public lands, but multiple use is about balance and knowing that not all areas are right for all uses. There are places where it is appropriate to mine and places where it is not. Paradise Valley is one of the areas it's not. The 20-year withdrawal will set that land aside and allow the local tourism industry to grow. I’m thankful to Secretary Sonny Perdue and the local community for their continued work on this important issue.”