Forest Service backs Yellowstone Gateway protections
The U.S. Forest Service draft environmental review released March 29 proposes a 20-year withdrawal of approximately 30,370 acres of public lands near Yellowstone National Park, which have been targeted for new mining activities. Large scale gold mining on public lands north of Yellowstone National Park could pose threats to local communities, wildlife, recreation, and waterways including Yellowstone River, as described in today’s draft environmental review.
“The Forest Service’s review echoes the concerns raised by more than 30,000 National Parks Conservation Association members and supporters: these proposed mines would threaten Yellowstone wildlife, visitor experience and adjacent communities,” said Stephanie Adams, Yellowstone program manager, National Parks Conservation Association. “National Parks Conservation Association commends the Forest Service for its science-backed examination of the resources at stake on these lands and urges them to withdraw these public lands for the full 20 years.”
The environmental review was conducted to evaluate a Forest Service proposal to prevent new mining on more than 30,000 acres of public lands, in the Emigrant Gulch and Crevice regions near Yellowstone National Park for up to 20 years. As a result of a November 2016 proposal, the U.S. Department of Interior called for a two-year time-out on new mining activities to provide time to conduct a formal, public study of the lands and connected waterways.
“We commend the hard work and dedication of all involved in the effort to permanently protect Montana’s Yellowstone Gateway communities,” said Big Sky’s Marne Hayes, executive director of Business for Montana’s Outdoors. “There is no doubt that these landscapes serve our businesses, both in direct effect to industry and as a draw to a way of life in Montana. The bottom line is that the border to Yellowstone National Park is no place for exploratory mining, and the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition has taken their message all the way to our decision makers in D.C. to ensure that a critical look be taken at the threat of mining in this pristine environment. We support the protection of our natural assets, and thank the Forest Service for considering the voices of those who live and work here.”
Two foreign-backed mining companies have revealed plans to develop two large scale gold mines in Park County, the year-round gateway to Yellowstone National Park. If mine development is allowed to proceed, one of the proposed mines would be built within eyesight of Yellowstone’s famous Roosevelt Arch. The other is proposed just north of the park, above the historic Chico Hot Springs Resort.
The administrative withdrawal of these public lands proposed by the Forest Service is authorized to last only be up to 20 years. Permanent protection requires legislative action. After extensively meeting with the local community, Montana Sen. Jon Tester introduced the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act (S. 941) in April of 2017 to permanently protect this landscape from gold mining. At the end of 2017, Montana Congressman Gianforte introduced a companion bill (H.R. 4644) in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Our community asked for protection of our public lands from mining and we are proud of the hard work and commitment from so many people, especially the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, to get to this point,” said Michelle Uberuaga, executive director of the Park County Environmental Council. “Mining in Yellowstone’s gateway not only threatens our jobs and our quality of life, if developed, these mines would industrialize critical habitat for grizzly bears, cutoff migratory corridors for elk and risk poisoning the Yellowstone River with acid runoff. We’re thankful that the Forest Service recognizes these risks and has put a pause button on mining. Now we have to work together to make it permanent."
—National Parks Conservation Association