Contentious legislation offers opportunities in mining

By |  March 2, 2016

The occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon drew national attention, putting a spotlight on the use of federal lands.

Now, amid new legislation that would give states the power to turn over federal lands for mining, logging and other activities, a spotlight is again being directed to the subject.

Congress is expected to consider two bills about the use of federal lands. The House Committee on Natural Resources will consider the bills – Rep. Don Young’s (R-Ala.) State National Forest Management Act of 2015 and Rep. Raúl Labrador’s (R-Idaho) Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act – at a Feb. 25 hearing.

According to The Guardian, Young’s bill would allow states to assume control of up to 2 million acres of the national forest system. Lands would be “managed primarily for timber production,” addressing a decline Young cites in national logging rates.

Labrador’s bill would allow state governors to assign up to 4 million acres of land as “forest demonstration areas,” allowing logging free from any federal water, air or endangered species restrictions, The Guardian reports.

If passed, the bills would obviously create new opportunities to put portable-processing equipment to use, but environmentalists are, not surprisingly, strongly opposed to the legislation. One environmentalist, Bobby McEnaney of the Natural Resources Defense Council, claims Republicans are seizing the Oregon occupation as an opportunity to further their agenda.

“The natural resources committee is pretty radicalized at this point,” McEnaney, a senior lands analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, tells The Guardian. “The fact that they would react to what’s happened in Oregon to advance an agenda to take land from the federal government is seriously tone deaf.

“The agenda here is being driven by oil, gas and timber industries,” McEnaney adds. “The Republicans are interested in a deregulation race to zero.”

The debate to come should be an interesting one – and highly heated.

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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