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Federal EA released on mineral withdrawal

U.S. Forest Service now seeking public comment on environmental analysis

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 7/2/22

REGIONAL—The U.S. Forest Service is now seeking public comment on an environmental analysis of its proposed 20-year withdrawal of approximately 225,000 acres within the Superior National Forest …

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Federal EA released on mineral withdrawal

U.S. Forest Service now seeking public comment on environmental analysis

Posted

REGIONAL—The U.S. Forest Service is now seeking public comment on an environmental analysis of its proposed 20-year withdrawal of approximately 225,000 acres within the Superior National Forest from the federal mineral leasing program.
The analysis is just a step in the process of assessing the merits of the Forest Service’s October 2021 request for the withdrawal, which encompasses a portion of the Rainy River watershed located near Ely, and upstream of the Boundary Waters. The final decision on the withdrawal is in the hands of the U.S. Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the federal minerals leasing program. The withdrawal would not affect private or state-owned mineral rights in the affected area.
The Forest Service’s EA is lengthy, encompassing hundreds of pages, 19 separate resource reports that encompass everything from impacts to the environment to economic and cultural effects.
Such analyses are information-gathering tools and the document makes no clear recommendation. It is primarily a restatement of issues related to the decision and a recitation of input from the various sides of the issue, including stakeholders and the public who are both for and against the proposed withdrawal. Much of the input came during the initial 90-day comment period initiated by the Forest Service’s withdrawal application, which included three public meetings and more than 200,000 individual comment letters.
The analysis considers two alternatives, including the Action Alternative, which would move forward with the temporary withdrawal. The No Action Alternative would maintain the status quo, which would allow continued mineral exploration and possible mining in the area, although it seems unlikely mining would occur during the 20-year period. Antofagasta, which operates Twin Metals and is the only company that has brought forward a current mine plan for the site, no longer has active mineral leases within the proposed withdrawal area. Those leases were canceled by the Biden administration last year.
In terms of environmental and economic impacts, the analysis finds that the impact of the ultimate decision may be less than many in the public expect. The withdrawal would have little impact on mining jobs in the region, in part because “no economic activity from hardrock minerals development is currently occurring in the analysis area,” notes the study’s section on socioeconomic impacts. “As such, the current structure of local economies would remain unchanged, leaving existing economic trends to continue.”
While the study notes that there is a general expectation that mining could be financially viable in the affected area, Antofagasta has not provided financial projections for the proposed operation, at least to date.
On the other hand, the analysis suggests that the region’s amenity-based economy could benefit from a withdrawal. “The amenity-based economy could continue its current growth trend or accelerate due to certainty in recreation experience and environmental quality provided by the requested withdrawal for at least 20 years,” states the report. “Consumer confidence in the amenity driven-real estate in St. Louis and Lake counties may improve due to beliefs that amenity values would remain intact over the time period of the requested withdrawal. This increased consumer confidence could continue to attract mobile entrepreneurs and professionals supporting a diversity of local economic sectors.”
Supporters of the withdrawal hailed the analysis as an important milestone in the process towards implementation of a mineral withdrawal in the area. “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the bad news out there,” said Chris Knopf, director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters. “But knowing that we are one step closer to a 20-year moratorium on toxic mining on federal land surrounding the Boundary Waters is reason to both celebrate and believe that science, the law, and the popular will, can prevail.”
Yet, critics of the proposal blasted the release of the document. Eighth District Congressman Pete Stauber called the document “politicized” and accused the Biden administration of preferring that “foreign and child slave labor produce minerals instead of American union miners…”
Stauber also highlighted his discovery that the 20-year withdrawal would include mineral leasing for taconite. “This is a new low, even for this administration. Under this action by Biden, we would not be able to develop taconite in the withdrawal region of the Superior National Forest, like northern Minnesotans have been doing safely for the last 130 years.” In fact, maps produced by the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota show no known iron or taconite formations within the proposed withdrawal area.
Comments on the analysis can be submitted via webform by selecting the “Comment/Object to Project” link on the project page at go.usa.gov/xtaCw. Electronic comments are preferred, but written comments will also be accepted. Written comments should be sent to:
Re: Minerals Withdrawal
8901 Grand Ave. Place
Duluth, MN 55808
Please note that comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of the project record and will be available for public inspection. For more information on the project, visit the withdrawal project page at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=60916.

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  • snowshoe2

    Stauber has become one of Trumps puppets instead of standing up for the right decisions of his district. He has learned to lie and then never look back. I get frequent emails from him with little truth. Have your own beliefs, I respect that, but be truthful for once.

    Sunday, July 3 Report this

  • brianlafrenier

    I think anyone who has followed this knows that Pete Stauber is full of wind. His "facts" are garnered from the Trump-Republican playbook. Some, of course, will believe what he's throwing out there believing their "way of life" is being threatened. Stauber's latest is a letter he penned to the President about not lifting Steel tariffs with China. As many know, Trump threw out a whole bunch of trade tariffs in his administration thinking countries would bow to his supreme being. All it did was hurt, consumers.

    American firms and consumers paid the vast majority of the cost of Trump’s tariffs.

    While tariffs benefited some workers in import-competing industries, they hurt workers in sectors that rely on imported inputs and those in exporting industries facing retaliation from trade partners.

    Trump’s tariffs did not help the U.S. negotiate better trade agreements or significantly improve national security.

    Geoffrey Gertz Former Brookings Expert

    I suppose Stauber and his fellow Trumpians will extol the virtues of their hard work for the American worker and convince some voters that the evil Democrats are just trying to be globalists and socialists. If they worried about their bottom line, they would realize we trade with other countries as a country. Every President has had good and bad advisors. Trump didn't care what his advisors as a whole had to offer. He was in it for himself and he likes a fight. That fight helped to get higher prices for appliances. When the pandemic hit, factories were shut down. Demand went up for consumer goods, fueling a hike in prices. If you ordered a dishwasher, you waited a long time and paid more for it than the year before.

    Trump didn't bring more jobs back to America. David Dollar with Brooking interviewed Sandra Polaski, a senior research scholar at Boston University's Global Development Policy Center back in October of 2020.

    DOLLAR: So let’s start with the big picture. President Trump had specific criticisms of the results of U.S. trade policy, and he’s used tariffs and new trade agreements to try to reduce the trade deficit and bring back manufacturing jobs. What do you think is the overall scorecard for this approach?

    POLASKI: Well, let’s start with the trade deficit, David, because that’s actually President Trump’s preferred scorecard. He likes to refer to that as what will judge whether he’s been successful. And on that scorecard, on the trade deficit, it’s a fail. I give him a fail on that. The overall trade deficit, including both goods and services, has gotten worse every year of Trump’s presidency than it was when he took over from Obama. The deficit in goods alone— think manufactured goods, think inputs, intermediate goods— all of those things that you can touch and handle, the things that would bring jobs back, has actually been the worst in the last couple of years that it has ever been in U.S. history. So that’s a good first indication of how Trump scores on his trade approach. By the way, this year the trade deficit is on track to again set a record as the worst ever in U.S. history.

    Turning to manufacturing jobs; you asked about manufacturing jobs. Well, Trump, as most people know, inherited a very long recovery after the 2008 financial crisis and the recession of 2009. There was a big stimulus package, there was an auto industry bailout, and the U.S. economy began to recover in general and the manufacturing industry began to recover. So over the years of the Obama administration there was a gradual recovery in manufacturing jobs and hours worked. Trump managed to destroy that through his ill-advised tariff tantrums in a short two years and put manufacturing into a recession. He was like a child taking a toy, a nice toy that somebody had, playing rough with it and breaking it. And this was even before the economy went into a tailspin due to his mishandling of the coronavirus. So, again, on manufacturing jobs, he gets a fail.

    I doubt whether Pete Stauber will ever get his "facts" straight on anything be it jobs or the environment. Meanwhile, we have a person in office that shouldn't be in office.

    Tuesday, July 5 Report this