IPAA sends letter on NPS and FWS proposed rule. This week, IPAA and API submitted comments to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs regarding rules proposed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to regulate operations on privately held minerals that lie beneath lands administered by the Services as units in the National Park System or as National Wildlife Refuges.
The comments are based on the well-established principle of common law that when an individual owns the minerals of a parcel but not the surface, the mineral rights owner is entitled to reasonable use of the surface to recover the minerals. The comments urge the office not to endorse either of the Proposed Rules, and to refer the matter of regulation of operations on private mineral estates found within units of either system to the respective agency for reconsideration.
IPAA previously summited comments in December 2015 and April 2014 on each rule. As the organizations stated in 2015, “The imposition of additional regulations on non-federal oil and gas development within the National Park System is unnecessary, and will only result in duplicative layers of regulatory oversight.”
USGS report outlines impact of sage grouse habitat withdrawal on mining sector. The United States Geological Survey released a new report this week on the mineral potential on 10 million acres of Federal and adjacent lands in six states with sage-grouse habitat. The assessment includes 10 million acres of federal land identified as “sagebrush focal areas” in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.
As E&E News describes, “most of the areas proposed to be withdrawn from new mining claims comprise areas with less than 17 percent ‘high or moderate mineral potential.’” Southwestern and south-central Wyoming, however, ranked higher on the list, with 66 percent of the proposed area for withdrawal having high or moderate mineral potential. Katie Sweeney, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Mining Association, has also highlighted the over 6,000 existing mining claims in the sage-grouse withdrawal area.
The Wyoming Mining Association has opposed the withdrawal, highlighting the presence of bentonite – a material whose development is important to the state and that is used in drilling fluids and sealants – in the withdrawal area. According to Travis Deti, the group’s acting executive director, “If that’s the trajectory that this goes, we’re absolutely going to oppose such a measure. We would certainly hope they would not use this as a tool to place more burdens on the mining industry in our state.”
House Democrats send letter to President on ESA protections. Disagreements over ESA riders continue to unfold on Capitol Hill.
A group of 92 House Democrats sent a letter to President Obama this week regarding ESA riders on the Interior-EPA appropriations bill (H.R. 5538), the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act (H.R. 8), and the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 (H.R. 4909). According to the letter, “If enacted, these provisions would undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA), upend management of our national wildlife refuges and other federally protected lands, and harm individual species at risk of extinction.”
Meanwhile, E&E News reports twenty Senate Democrats sent a letter to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) in opposition to certain provisions in H.R. 8, stating that they “would undercut protections for endangered species and other wildlife.” IPAA continues to monitor these efforts and engage on the need for straightforward, targeted ESA reform to both protect America’s wildlife and grow the economy.
In the News
FWS lists mussel, floats salamander and snake protections. E&E News (sub req’d). The Fish and Wildlife Service today said it will add a freshwater mussel to the threatened species list, proposed protections for salamander and snake species found in the Southeast, and rejected calls to list nearly a dozen other species. The Suwannee moccasinshell mussel, found in northern Florida, was once thought to be extinct. In a separate notice, the agency proposed adding to the endangered species list the Black Warrior waterdog, an aquatic salamander found in northwestern Alabama. FWS also proposed adding the Louisiana pinesnake to the threatened species list. Finally, FWS concluded in another notice that listing 10 species was “not warranted at this time.”
Protection Secured for 49 Hawaiian Species. Courthouse News Service. Ten animals and 39 plants in Hawaii are now listed as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, but no critical habitat is designated for now. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used an “ecosystem-based” approach to determine the listing status for the 49 species, which are found in 11 distinct ecosystems on the island chain, including coastal, subalpine and anchialine pools. One of the ten listed animal species is a tiny shrimp that lives in the anchialine pools, which are formed in limestone or volcanic rock near the sea. The pools have underground connections to the sea, and the level of the salty or brackish water can fluctuate with the tides.
Feds list 7 Hawaii bee species as endangered, a first in US. Associated Press. Federal authorities on Friday added seven yellow-faced bee species, Hawaii’s only native bees, for protection under the Endangered Species Act, a first for any bees in the United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the listing after years of study by the conservation group Xerces Society, state government officials and independent researchers. The Xerces Society says its goal is to protect nature’s pollinators and invertebrates, which play a vital role in the health of the overall ecosystem.
Judge says U.S. officials fail to protect endangered red wolf. Associated Press. A judge said that federal wildlife officials have failed to protect the world’s only wild population of red wolves in a preliminary ruling that restricts the government’s ability to remove the animals from private property. U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle’s preliminary injunction released earlier this week stops wildlife officials from removing the wolves from private property unless they can show the wolves are threatening humans, pets or livestock.
BLM choose transmission line routes that avoid private land, sage grouse habitat. Idaho Statesman. The Bureau of Land Management choose routes Thursday for the Gateway West high-power transmission line that avoid private land, sage-grouse habitat and the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. The routes have been a source of controversy with residents critical of previous plans that sought primary to avoid the Birds of Prey area. Idaho State BLM director Tim Murphy said the agency had to ensure the area received “a heightened level of protection and care.” “Another important effort we’ve undertaken is working with the state and other essential partners to protect high-quality sage grouse habitat throughout Southern Idaho,” Murphy said. “The routes we have selected honor both of these priorities while also providing a path forward for this important project.”
FWS declares 2 beetles extinct. E&E News (sub req’d). The Fish and Wildlife Service has officially concluded that two beetle species are now extinct. The announcement was made yesterday in a 67-page Federal Register notice rejecting petitions to protect the Stephan’s riffle beetle, the Tatum Cave beetle and eight other species. FWS said it can’t do anything for each of the beetles because it “is extinct, and, as such, it is not eligible for listing as an endangered species or a threatened species under the Act.” Nevertheless, the agency added that it could be wrong about the beetles, neither of which has been seen in decades.