Secretary Jewel announcing the mineral withdrawal.

Secretary Jewel announcing the mineral withdrawal.

Last spring, PCEC traveled to Washington DC with our partners from the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the National Parks Conservation Association to meet with our Congressional Representatives and others to ask for a mineral withdrawal on public lands around the two proposed Yellowstone Gateway mines.

Today we’re thrilled to announce that we were joined by community members, sportsmen and local businesses at Chico Hot Springs Resort to witness U.S. Dept. of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announce a two-year time-out on public lands gold exploration near Yellowstone National Park that will protect jobs in the region.

PCEC, along with our partners, hailed the temporary decision as a crucial step that protect jobs and private property, responds to local concerns, and gives all of us time to hash out a permanent Montana-made solution.

Today’s decision immediately initiates a temporary two-year pause, or “segregation” on new mining activities on approximately 30,000 acres of public lands in Emigrant Gulch and Crevice Mountain, during which no new mining claims may be staked or mining activity approved within these areas. During that time a public process will analyze whether to keep the administrative withdrawal in place, including full consideration of the environmental impacts.

The withdrawal does not impact management of the public lands, meaning these areas will still be public land, open for outdoor recreation. The withdrawal will also have no impact on private land or the rights of existing claim holders on public lands.

The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition and others have asked the Montana delegation to help them craft bipartisan legislation that would enact a permanent mineral withdrawal on these public lands while protecting private property rights, similar to the bipartisan North Fork Watershed Protection Act, sponsored by both US Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines in 2013.

Senator Tester has already stated that that he is considering introducing legislation to prohibit the federal government from granting mining permits in these two areas.

We couldn’t have gotten to where we are without the support and tireless efforts of our partners and the community of Park County in this process. As EarthJustice attorney, and former PCEC Vice President, Jenny Harbine so eloquently said, “This decision represents an important step forward in protecting the landscapes on Yellowstone’s doorstep. These landscapes offer more than a magnificent view. They form some of the last refuges for our nation’s most iconic symbols of wildness – grizzly bears, lynx, and wolverines. But it is important to recognize that today’s decision begins the process of protecting these lands; it doesn’t finish it. There is more work to be done and we intend to continue the fight to protect Yellowstone’s gateway until the threat from mining is permanently removed.”

For a technical summary of the withdrawal process and its importance see our FAQ sheet.

A enthusiastic crowd of local residents and elected officials awaiting the announcement.

A enthusiastic crowd of local residents and elected officials awaiting the announcement.