Senators To Zinke: Staking And Developing New Mining Claims Within National Monuments Is Illegal

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall
WASHINGTON, D.C. Thursday, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) led a group of 23 senators in demanding answers from Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke about news that a Canadian mining company has acquired a dozen mining claims – totaling more than acres of lands – within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The company, Glacier Lake Resources, has announced its plans to begin development of these claims in the near future.
“New mining within the boundaries of a national monument is illegal,” the senators wrote, “and we believe these claims are as invalid as the president’s proclamation which is the subject of litigation.”
In addition to Udall, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.),  Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.).
In appearances before various congressional committees and in the media, Zinke repeatedly asserted that in the Trump administration’s rollback of national monuments, “there wasn’t one square inch of land that was removed from federal protection,” and that these decisions had nothing to do with extractive industry.
“If your department has approved these claims then these statements have turned out to be false,” the senators wrote.
“If these claims are approved, the Bureau of Land Management would be using federal resources to facilitate legally questionable mining claims in an important, environmentally sensitive area,” the senators continued. “As you know, ongoing litigation challenges the opening of these lands to mining and drilling and most legal experts believe that the courts will eventually find that President Trump lacked the authority to eliminate protections from Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. Proceeding with mining while the litigation is ongoing could cause irreparable harm to this area and is in violation of federal law protecting this area under the Antiquities Act.”
“The Department of the Interior, acting through the BLM, has a duty to transparently and wisely steward our natural resources,” the senators said. “To uphold that duty, we strongly urge the Department to reject the staking, leasing and development of any mineral interests in national monuments pending the outcome of litigation. Further, the BLM should inform Glacier Lake Resources and any other entities that these claims are likely in violation of the federal law and strongly discourage any development that could lead to irreparable damage to these lands.”
The full text of the letter is HERE.