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Mining Regulation Clarifies District Ranger Authority

The Forest Service today announced that according to a new interim mining regulation issued July 9, 2004, mineral operators proposing to conduct exploration or mining activities on National Forest System (NFS) lands will continue to be required to submit a notice of intent and/or a plan of operations if the responsible District Ranger determines an operation will cause significant disturbance of surface resources.

A federal district court recently interpreted the current regulation to allow for mineral operations on NFS lands without prior notification to the Forest Service and/or without Forest Service approval if the proposed operation would not involve the use of mechanized earthmoving equipment such as bulldozers or backhoes and would not involve the cutting of trees.

The new interim rule at 36 CFR 228.4(a), clarifies and reinforces the Forest Service´s long-standing position that the Forest Service District Ranger has the authority to determine if an operator will submit a notice of intent and/or plan of operations based on an evaluation of the entire proposed operation. A notice of intent will be required if the District Ranger determines the operation might cause a disturbance of surface resources, whereas a plan of operations will be required if the proposed operation will likely cause a significant disturbance of surface resources. This applies regardless if no earth moving equipment or tree cutting is involved.

The interim rule will go into effect 30 dates after publication in the Federal Register. A 60-day comment period will begin following publication of the interim rule in the Federal Register and the public comments received will be used to promulgate a final rule.

(U.S. Forest Service Press Release)