Public-lands fish and wildlife habitat a beneficiary of Senate bill, which breaks new ground in addressing revision of 1872 Mining Law

WASHINGTON – Sportsmen United for Sensible Mining today welcomed a U.S. Senate bill that would institute long-overdue reform of the General Mining Law of 1872, ensure better management of fish and wildlife resources on the nation’s public lands and begin reclamation of thousands of abandoned hard-rock mines in the West.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Jeff Bingaman introduced the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009 (S. 796), noting the legislation would “make responsible changes” to the “outmoded” 1872 Mining Law. The bill is an unprecedented step toward substantive revision of the 137-year-old law. A similar effort ended last year without the Senate considering reform measures.

“This bill is a strong step forward in instituting some long-overdue, common-sense reforms of the 1872 Mining Law that will better protect and assure the health of our fish and wildlife populations and public lands,” said Jim Lyon, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation. “The bill also establishes a reclamation program to begin cleaning up the legacy of thousands of abandoned mines that have degraded our waters and important wildlife habitat for decades.”

“In today’s tough economic climate, responsibly managing our public lands makes good sense,” said Tom St. Hilaire, vice president for campaign management for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The 1872 Mining Law not only fails to safeguard these lands, it also jeopardizes fish and wildlife populations that depend on them – consequently diminishing hunting and fishing opportunities and hurting the economic boost provided by sportsmen. The Senate bill would conserve these valuable natural resources at a time when we need them most.”
The Senate action follows reform efforts initiated in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year. The House bill, H.R. 699, is identical to a bill passed by the House last year in a 244-166 bipartisan vote.

“Sportsmen commend Senator Bingaman’s willingness to introduce this crucial legislation,” said Chris Wood, chief operating officer of Trout Unlimited, “and we offer our unequivocal support of efforts to update the 1872 Mining Law through common-sense revisions, which should include robust conservation measures, reasonable royalties on minerals extracted from public lands, an abandoned mine cleanup fund that considers impacts to fish and wildlife, discretion for land managers and prohibition of public-lands patenting.”

Action on the bill is expected after the Senate Energy Committee completes its work on the energy bill. Hearings are anticipated this summer.

SUSM, a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners spearheaded by the NWF, the TRCP and TU, promotes sensible reform of the 1872 Mining Law to enable conservation of fish and wildlife resources and a future for America’s sporting heritage. Under the 1872 law, more than 270 million acres of federal land are open to hard-rock mining, mostly in the Rocky Mountain West. Absent meaningful revision of the law, many of America’s most treasured public lands remain at risk, including important wildlife habitat and hunting areas, valuable fisheries, popular recreation sites, vital municipal water supplies and sensitive roadless areas.

Learn more about Sportsmen United for Sensible Mining.