REGIONAL— The public will have two formal opportunities to weigh in on plans to study a proposal by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of the Land Management to withdraw 234,000 acres of the …
REGIONAL— The public will have two formal opportunities to weigh in on plans to study a proposal by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of the Land Management to withdraw 234,000 acres of the Superior National Forest from the federal minerals leasing program for 20 years. The federal agencies are currently in the scoping phase of a planned environmental impact statement on the proposal and are seeking public comment on the range of issues that should be analyzed as part of the study. The area under consideration for the withdrawal includes a large swath of the Rainy River watershed located south and east of Ely. Two longstanding federal mineral leases in the affected area expired in 2013 and are not being renewed, although that decision is currently before a federal judge.
The Obama administration first announced the mineral withdrawal proposal in January, and officials with the Trump administration announced late last month that they intend to move forward with the study as planned.
The federal agencies will hold two public comment sessions on the scoping for the study in Minnesota in July. The sessions are as follows:
• Tuesday, July 18,
St. Paul River Centre
(Exhibit Hall A)
175 West Kellogg
Blvd. Suite 501
St. Paul, Minn.
• Tuesday, July 25
Virginia High School
411 S 5th Ave.
Both sessions will begin at 5 p.m. and conclude at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.
Requests for public comments began with the Jan. 13, 2017, publication in the Federal Register of the Forest Service’s notice of intent to prepare an EIS. The agencies held a public meeting in Duluth in March. Due to substantial public interest and the complexity of the proposal, the Forest Service extended the 90-day scoping period for an additional 120 days to allow more time for public input and additional public meetings.
Written comments may be submitted via U.S. mail or courier to the Superior National Forest, ATTN: Minerals Withdrawal, 8901 Grand Ave. Place, Duluth, MN 55808. Written comments may also be sent via email to: email@example.com or via fax to 218-626-4398. Comments must be received by midnight CDT, Friday, Aug.11.
The proposed mineral withdrawal includes only federally-owned hardrock minerals. It does not affect valid existing mineral rights, private lands, private mineral estates, private fractional minerals interests, or sand, gravel or stone quarries. Private and state mineral interests may continue to pursue mineral exploration and development within the area during the 20-year term.
The Forest Service will serve as lead agency for the EIS, with the BLM acting as a cooperating agency. The EIS will provide information that the BLM is required to present to the Secretary of the Interior who will make the final decision on the withdrawal proposal. If the withdrawal is approved, the EIS may be used to provide supporting analysis if the Forest Service decides to amend the Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. A copy of the notice of intent, application, map of the proposed withdrawal, and guidance for commenting are posted on the Superior National Forest website at https://go.usa.gov/xNmJJ.