President Donald Trump’s administration is dismissing an intensive environmental review measuring the effect banning mining on 230,000 acres in Minnesota has on a nearby wilderness area.
Instead of completing an environmental impact statement totaling hundreds of pages of analysis, the U.S. Forestry Service will prepare a much less extensive environmental assessment, according to a draft press release obtained by The Washington Post.
Environmentalists criticized the Trump administration for the reported action, believing the government should follow through and complete the environmental impact statement started in the final days of former President Barack Obama’s administration.
“Our concern is that the Forest Service committed to completing an environmental-impact statement,” Wilderness Society Senior Counsel Nada Culver told WaPo. “While we certainly agree that closing this area to mining does not have much environmental harm, we think it’s important that they follow though, that all voices are heard.”
The Obama administration committed to the extensive environmental review after banning mining in the area for two years. The impact statement was meant to inform whether the mining ban should be lengthened to last two decades.
Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of a Chilean company, held leases to mine copper and nickel in the 230,000 acre area. The Obama administration refused to renew the leases in Jan. 2017, in order to assess the impact mining operations would have on the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Congress took action in November to lift the two-year mining ban. The House passed the Minnesota’s Economic Rights in the Superior National Forest by a vote of 216 to 204. The bill has is currently waiting a vote in the Senate.
“What initiated this situation is an arbitrary overreach by the Obama administration at the last minute,” GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, said after the bill was passed. “It was looking to score political points on its way out the door by taking the near-unprecedented action of initiating a full mineral withdrawal that was undemocratic.”
The Department of the Interior did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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