Letter to Congress: Oppose HR 3115, the PolyMet land swap bill

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October 30, 2017

Honorable Paul Ryan                                                                      Honorable Nancy Pelosi
The Speaker of the House of Representatives                            House Minority Leader
H-232 Capitol Building                                                                   H-2404 Capitol Building

Washington, DC 20515                                                                   Washington, DC 20515                  


Dear Speaker Ryan and Minority Leader Pelosi:

The undersigned groups strongly oppose HR 3115, and ask you to join us in opposing this legislation.

HR 3115, sponsored by Rep. Rick Nolan of Minnesota, would compel the U.S. Forest Service to exchange 6,650 acres of contiguous National Forest land with PolyMet Mining Corp. for a proposed open pit copper-nickel sulfide ore mine. The PolyMet mine is deeply controversial and poses a threat to water quality, exceptional wetlands, endangered species, and Treaty-reserved rights and resources. Recent polling shows that a majority of Minnesotans are opposed to the proposal.  

If it passes, HR 3115 would set a terrible precedent across the United States.  HR 3115 undercuts due process, undermines bedrock environmental laws, and undervalues public land.

Undercuts due process – There are currently four separate lawsuits pending against the PolyMet land exchange. These lawsuits address issues that tens of thousands of citizens have raised in public comments on the environmental review of PolyMet’s proposed mine.  If passed, HR 3115 would substitute political judgment for the deliberative judgment of the federal court system. It is rare and highly unusual for the U.S. Congress to intervene in a land exchange while the courts are considering whether that land exchange is legal.

Undermines bedrock environmental laws – The lawsuits filed against the PolyMet land exchange argue the exchange violates bedrock U.S. environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.  The land in question is home to the threatened Canada Lynx and was acquired under the Weeks Act, which prohibits open pit mining on this National Forest land. HR 3115 would prevent federal courts from upholding these laws in this exchange – in effect repealing them for PolyMet and for future proposals that would seek the same exemption. 

Undervalues public land – One core principle of public land exchanges is that the public must benefit. In this case, 6,650 acres of contiguous public land, including thousands of acres of irreplaceable wetlands at the headwaters of the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior were valued for exchange at a paltry $550 per acre. The appraiser was specifically instructed to ignore the fact that a mining company wants to mine this site when valuing the land. There is a long and sordid history of public land giveaways to industry in the U.S., and the public suffers when resources are traded away at bargain basement prices.   

PolyMet’s mine proposal has not received a single federal or state permit and may never be in a position to use the lands proposed for exchange, yet HR 3115 would transfer National Forest lands to this mining company. Congress should let the federal courts do their job, uphold bedrock laws enacted to protect public lands, endangered species and the environment, and reject HR 3115.


Minnesota Groups:

Alliance for Sustainability

Clean Water Action of Minnesota

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest

Honor the Earth

Humming for Bees

Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division

League of Women Voters Duluth
League of Women Voters Minnesota

Mankato Area Environmentalists

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesota Ornithologist’s Union


Pollinator Friendly Alliance

Renewing the Countryside

Save Lake Superior Association

Save Our Sky Blue Waters

Sierra Club North Star Chapter

Voyageurs National Park Association


Wetland Action Group


Regional & National Groups:
American Rivers

Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project

Center for Biological Diversity

Conservation Congress

Deer Tail Press



Environmental Justice Coalition for Water

Freshwater Future

Friends of Bell Smith Springs

Friends of the Bitterroot

Friends of the Clearwater

Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK)

The Front 40

Great Old Broads for Wilderness – Boise Chapter


Impact Fund

Information Network for Responsible Mining

John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community

Kootenai Environmental Alliance

Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin

MiningWatch Canada

National Parks Conservation Association

Northwood Alliance Inc.

Rock Creek Alliance

Save Our Cabinets

Sequoia ForestKeeper

Sierra Club National

Sierra Club John Muir Chapter

Silver Valley Community Resource Center

Swan View Coalition

The Lands Council

Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition

WildEarth Guardians

Wilderness Watch

Wisconsin Resources Protection Council

Yellowstone to Uintas Connection


cc:           Honorable Timothy Walz
Honorable Jason Lewis
Honorable Erik Paulson
Honorable Betty McCollum
Honorable Keith Ellison
Honorable Thomas Emmer
Honorable Collin Peterson
Honorable Richard Nolan
Honorable Amy Klobuchar
Honorable Al Franken
Honorable Chuck Schumer
Honorable Rob Bishop
Honorable Raul Grijalva
Honorable Mark Pocan
Honorable Steny Hoyer

One Response to “Letter to Congress: Oppose HR 3115, the PolyMet land swap bill”

  1. john neeley

    This is unacceptable! This legislation cannot succeed.