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Tuesday, October 15 2013

Pick & Shovel GazetteWashington has withdrawn more than 300,000 acres from new mining claims in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah over the next 20 years. The move comes as a slap in the face to small-scale mining and organizations including the Gold Prospectors Association of America (GPAA) and other outdoor groups in the western states who have been fighting to keep these lands open.

This disturbing new trend in public land management has shifted land use priorities, or so it seems, to give energy needs top priority over mining interests. This drastic change in federal policy is a clear violation of the Mining Law of 1872. Public Land Order 7818, implemented in July and available online in the Federal Register, withdraws more than 300,000 acres of public land in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah from new mining claims for the next 20 years. In addition to stopping all new permits, this withdrawal will restrict mining claims in multiple regions in an effort to create Solar Energy Zones in regions that have been surveyed and identified by the federal government as prime areas for utility-scale solar development.

Withdrawal from mineral entry has been used in the past to create national parks and military bases, but this is the first time a withdrawal is being implemented to encourage green energy development. This order, created by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, sets the pace for the Obama administration’s energy and land use policy for the next few years. The Obama administration has committed to clean energy, and Bureau of Land Management Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze recently stated in a news release that “The Public Land Order protects the integrity of the Solar Energy Zones and helps us meet President Obama’s goal of green-lighting enough public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020.” The Interior Department currently estimates that projects developed in the new SEZs could power 1.8 million homes, if they are successfully implemented.

President Barack Obama has promised to streamline the process for solar development in SEZs, however there are still several barriers between the implementation of PLO 7818 and the actual creation of energy generating utility-sized solar projects, according to the land rights group, Public Lands for the People. All of the solar plants will have to pass through a vigorous environmental assessment which will culminate in an Environmental Impact Statement, showing that placing solar farms in these regions will not harm any critical ecosystems or species, said PLP President Jerry Hobbs.

The projects themselves will require new right-ofways and, in addition to generating electricity, the companies will also have to build an infrastructure which can transmit the new electricity to nearby communities. The process will be long and arduous and, in the meantime, the land will remain closed, he said.

This is a brief excerpt from just one of the interesting and informative articles found in the October/November 2013 Pick & Shovel Gazette, published by GPAA. Download the full 28-page issue for free!

Posted by: Denise AT 11:57 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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