On Friday, members of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands will consider a bill that would risk the loss of more than 86,000 acres of Minnesota’s Superior National Forest.
H.R. 5544, recently introduced by Congressman Chip Cravaack, would require the U.S. Forest Service to offer tens of thousands of acres of protected National Forest land to be exchanged with the state of Minnesota. The ultimate result of this bill? Tens of thousands of acres of forests, wetlands and wildlife habitat would be destroyed for new sulfide mining projects and other development.
Federal ownership of National Forest Land carries with it a variety of critical legal protections, including:
- The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) provides a process for public input by affected citizens and environmental review to evaluate and determine whether an action is in the public interest
- The Weeks Act protects National Forest lands against surface land destruction (i.e. strip mining) and protects the headwaters of rivers and watersheds in perpetuity.
- Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to consult with proposed projects on National Forest land to ensure ESA compliance
- The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act of 1978 specifically requires that the BWCA be protected from the environmental impacts associated with mineral development “to the maximum extent possible”
All of these important safeguards would be lost on any National Forest land included in this exchange.
Unfortunately, Congressman Cravaack’s bill goes even further by bypassing environmental review and public involvement in order to complete the exchange. Make no mistake, HR5544 would require the US Forest Service to trade away 86,000 acres without even allowing a process for considering potential impacts on the water, habitat and wild lands of Minnesota’s Arrowhead.