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Mining the Parks Put Off


    A controversial proposal to tinker with the mining law of 1872 in a way that some feared could open national parks to mining has been altered.
    Representative Jim Gibbons of Nevada has agreed to change language in the measure, which was attached to the House Deficit Reduction Act. The Republican had authored the controversial provision, saying he wanted to encourage "sustainable economic use" of public lands. However, opponents claimed it could allow for development of mining claims within national parks.
    Typical of legislation cranked out near the end of a congressional session, this measure was fraught with ugly, convoluted provisions. When it first surfaced, I tried to dissect the measure with help from former Interior Solicitor John Leshy and Craig Obey, the National Parks Conservation Association's vice president for governmental affairs.
    While Representative Gibbons has rewritten the provision to prohibit the development of claims within any national park, national wildlife refuge, national wild and scenic river corridor, or national trails system, he still wants to lift the moratorium on patenting mining claims on federal lands.

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