PARK PROTECTION

Tester rally supports Paradise Valley, Crevice mine withdrawal
By 
Liz Kearney
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The audience attending Sen. Jon Tester’s visit at the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act rally applauds the senator for his comments in favor of the act Wednesday at the Gallatin Fairgrounds in Bozeman. (Enterprise photos by Nate Howard)

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U.S. Sen. Jon Tester speaks during the rally.

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TRACY RAICH

A Bozeman rally to support mineral withdrawals on public lands near Yellowstone drew a large crowd of supporters Wednesday afternoon.

Sen. Jon Tester addressed a crowd of at least 200 at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds in support of the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, which would withdraw permanently about 30,000 acres of public land in the Custer Gallatin National Forest from mineral exploration.

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Tester and was introduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. Greg Gianforte in December.

The bill follows two proposals by private companies to explore for minerals in Park County. Lucky Minerals plans to explore for gold, silver, molybdenum and other minerals on private property up Emigrant Creek on the flanks of Emigrant Peak.

Crevice Minerals has an application before the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to explore for gold northeast of Jardine not far from the northern border of Yellowstone National Park.

Tester had hoped to attach the act to the recent omnibus spending bill, but the attempt was unsuccessful.

Tester praised the grassroots efforts of local citizens and business owners, including the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, for working to oppose mining near Chico Hot Springs and Yellowstone.

“Anytime you have a movement from the ground up, not the top down, it’s the right thing to do,” Tester said at the rally.

Local Realtor Tracy Raich, a founding member of the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, addressed the Wednesday rally.

“There are many people in the mining industry who understand that there are appropriate places to mine and that the gateway to Yellowstone is not one of them,” Raich said.

Meanwhile, officials with the Custer Gallatin National Forest announced today that the environmental assessment of the Emigrant Crevice mineral withdrawal process is now available for public review and comment.

The proposal is to withdraw approximately 30,370 acres of National Forest system lands from location and entry under the United States mining laws, but not from leasing under mineral and geothermal laws, according to a Custer Gallatin Forest news release. This would prohibit the location of new mining claims for the next 20 years. A decision on this proposal is expected prior to November 2018. The proposed Mineral Withdrawal does not apply to private lands or Federal lands with valid existing rights in the area, according to the release.

As part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the proposed withdrawal area provides important wildlife habitat and corridors for grizzly bear, Canada lynx and other wildlife species, and is the headwaters of a number of streams that flow into the Yellowstone River. The area also provides high quality outdoor recreation opportunities which are important to the local economy.

If the Emigrant Crevice Mineral Withdrawal is not approved by the Secretary of the Interior, the federal lands within the area will reopen to locatable mineral entry, including filing of new claims.

The environmental assessment and associated project documents are available online at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=51258 or at the Custer Gallatin National Forest Supervisor’s Office, 10 East Babcock, Bozeman, MT. For additional information, contact Sitka Pence at sitkapence@fs.fed.us, or 587-6985.

Written comments must be submitted via mail, fax, or in person to Mary Erickson Forest Supervisor, ATTN: Sitka Pence, P.O. Box 130, Bozeman, MT 59771. Electronic comments including attachments may be submitted to https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?Project=51258.