Land exchange legislation would harm Superior National Forest

Two writers have written excellent articles recently which examine Rep. Chip Cravaack’s legislation which would push through an exchange of state land inside the Boundary Waters for land managed by the Superior National Forest outside the wilderness.

David Lien, the Grand Rapids native and co-chair of Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, penned a column in which he says H.R. 5544 would reduce access to land for hunting, fishing and other activities:

  • It prioritizes parcels for exchange where a handful of mining companies would benefit.
  • It provides no protective measures for how the land may be used and no assurances that existing activities, like hunting and angling, would continue.
  • Losing 86,000 acres of public lands from the SNF is opposed by most hunters, anglers, and other outdoorsmen and women.
  • This bill seeks to bypass a state-level process already in place to address this issue.

Continue reading…

Ely writer and retired schoolteacher C.A. Arneson responded to Cravaack’s defense of the bill, stating that the Representative has misled the public about what the legislation would do:

When Cravaack proclaimed in his letter, “Importantly, this bill [H.R. 5544] would not take away a single environmental protection or regulation,” he wasn’t being truthful. If Superior National Forest land outside the Boundary Waters were traded to the state of Minnesota, it would lose most of its federal protections.

The bill would take away environmental protections by removing traded lands from federal ownership. This would allow strip-mining on lands originally purchased and given watershed protection under the Weeks Actand other laws that protect our national forests. As long as the lands are in federal hands, the Weeks Act and other laws protect the surface rights and prohibit strip-mining. Additionally, Cravaack’s bill specifically nullifies NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental review, citizen input and the right to legal intervention.

In other words, the citizens of Minnesota would no longer have the means to protect their “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

Continue reading…

Update 9/6/2012: H.R. 5544 is expected to be voted on by the House of Representatives soon. Please contact your Representative and ask them to oppose this legislation. Find out more here.

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    1 comment to Land exchange legislation would harm Superior National Forest

    • I spy

      As a Minnesota DNR Forestry employee, I know that transferring ANY land to be managed by the new “Trust” czar will have only negative impacts to that land. As of yet, we have no clear direction on how to manage this trust land differently than other State land, but already there have been suggestions to do the bare minimum in the way of best management practices. I shudder to think of how mining will play into the equation. State geologists have been crawling all over “Trust” lands statewide in the last year, looking for new gravel pit opportunities, among other extractive uses. The State is just too bound by the politics of the moment to responsibly manage anything. Sadly, there are no real markets for all this timber, so that leaves only the possibility of conversion of the forests to open pits of one type or another, in order to raise revenue for the school trust. Although little can be done to protect most “Trust” lands from the State, at least the lands in the Superior N.F. still have a fighting chance. The Forest Service has a much better track record of responsible management, and hopefully these lands stay in their hands. Why don’t our state legislators just properly fund our schools in the first place, and why are these negotiations going on under a veil of secrecy? This affects us all- don’t wait until it’s too late!

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