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Comment Archives: stories: Blogs: Letters to the Editor: Last 7 Days

Re: “Nature bats last

What they didn't tell you about the public lands riders

By Steve Charter.

Mr. Charter ranches over coal that would be traded by the public lands proposal, and is the chair of Billings-based Northern Plains Resource Council.


When U.S. Rep. Steve Daines and Sens. John Walsh and Jon Tester were celebrating the public lands package they sneaked into a defense bill, I wonder if they thought about the landowners and taxpayers they threw under the bus by doing it.

Their package transfers valuable coal under my family's ranch and our neighbors in the Bull Mountains to Great Northern Properties, a mega-corporation spun off from the railroad years ago, in exchange for other coal in southeastern Montana. Great Northern Properties gets a windfall by giving up low-quality coal that will almost certainly never be mined and gains high-quality coal next to mines with a high likelihood of development. It's like trading a trailer house for a mansion.


Some Context on the Public Lands Riders: Losses Far Outweigh Any Wins 

By Matthew Koehler


Bottom Line: This public lands package attached as a rider to an unrelated National Defense Authorization Act will mean more public lands grazing, mining, oil and gas development and logging…and less public input, less protection for wildlife species and less science-based management overall.

There are a total of 6,397,000 unprotected Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in Montana. This public lands rider would protect only 67,000 acres in Montana as Wilderness, or just 1% of the total Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in Montana.

Nationally, the number of Wilderness acres protected in this bill is even more pitiful. This ‘historic’ 449 page-long Public Lands rider attached to the National Defense Authorization Act would protect a whopping 0.2% of all remaining Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in the United States. Nothing says “Happy 50th Birthday Wilderness Act” than boldly protecting 0.2% of what remains, right?


Top 5 Offensive Provisions of the Public Lands Rider
By Anne Hedges, MEIC…

Once again wild land advocates rightfully want to protect wonderful wild lands but they are willing to give up far too much. There are just too many awful provisions lurking in the shadows of this deal that is being inappropriately slipped it into a must-pass defense spending bill.

Great Northern Properties gets its grubby hands on 112 million tons of coal adjacent to the Signal Peak mine. Two Wilderness Study Areas near Otter Creek will lose their designation as such and 14,000 acres of wilderness study areas in eastern Montana near the CMR National Wildlife Refuge will likely lose that designation from oil and gas development. Once again, eastern Montana lands are being sacrificed for protections in the western half of the state.


Take Action! Help Oppose Bad Public Lands Package

The National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) set for a Senate vote this week contains language that will forever change the West. Renewal of many grazing permits would be exempted from public oversight and environmental review by being tucked in with a sprawling public lands package, undermining the already inadequate public lands grazing management performed by federal agencies

It cannot be overstated: the new laws would mean that the BLM and Forest Service must continue status quo grazing regardless of the environmental laws being violated until the agencies have sufficient funding (or inclination) to do otherwise.  


47 Public Lands, Wilderness & Environmental Groups Blast Riders in Defense Bill

A coalition of 47 public lands, Wilderness and environmental organizations from across the country have issued a letter to all members of the U.S. Senate demanding the removal of damaging public land “riders” that have been added to the Defense Authorization Bill, which passed the U.S. House last week and now awaits action in the Lame Duck senate.

The riders includes several controversial and harmful public land proposals, including an exchange of National Forest land to a foreign-owned mining company seeking to operate a mine on land sacred to the Apache, a giveaway of 70,000 acres on Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to Sealaska Corporation, notorious for its scorched-earth logging practices, and a stealth provision that removes protections from two Wilderness Study Areas in eastern Montana. The bill also contains numerous public land conveyances as well as Wilderness bills with special provisions allowing helicopter use and habitat manipulation.

The coalition of 47 organizations is calling on the Senate to remove the riders from the Defense Bill. Some proposals thrown into the mix would gain the groups’ strong support as stand-alone legislation, but the bill’s numerous “poison pills” mean that too high a price would be paid for a few conservation gains.


Save Sacred Native American & Public Lands from Huge Copper Mine

In a highly controversial move last week, the US House of Representatives buried the Oak Flat land exchange deep in the House version of the NDAA. For 10 years, the land exchange has failed to be become law for very good reasons:

It is the only bill before the US Congress that would give a Native American Sacred site on public land to a foreign mining company – Rio Tinto – that also co-owns a uranium mine with the Iranian Government.

Posted by Matthew Koehler on 12/11/2014 at 7:24 AM

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