Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Monument would not enhance protection of Boulder-White Clouds

    An important question in the national monument debate is whether a monument would strengthen protection from mining for the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains. Quick answer: no.  It would actually weaken protection. Here’s why.
    The Boulder-White Clouds portion of the proposed monument lies within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.  All valid mining claims on SNRA land would carry forward to a Boulder-White Clouds monument.  (National monuments preserve existing mining claims.)
    As with the SNRA, mining claims in a monument could be developed as long as mining didn’t harm protected values. When you compare protected values in the SNRA law with protected values in the monument proposal, you find they’re essentially the same. No improvement there.
    And how about new mining claims? The SNRA’s prohibition on new mining claims would be duplicated in a national monument. No difference there.
    What makes the SNRA more protective is a feature of SNRA law that authorizes the purchase and retirement of existing mining claims without the consent of owners. This is an extremely powerful tool that’s not available in a national monument.
    The monument proposal does contain land outside the SNRA that lacks enhanced protection. A national monument on this non-SNRA land would provide better protection from mining by prohibiting new mining claims and preventing mining that harms protected values.
    But for the Boulder-White Clouds and the SNRA land, it makes no sense to impose a national monument that weakens better protection already in place.
John Kelley
Sun Valley


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