Tester lauded for standing up for YNP

by Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Montana Sen. Jon Tester is commended for proposing a permanent ban on new mining claims on public land near Yellowstone National Park. If passed, the measure would prohibit claims on two pieces of Forest Service land in Paradise Valley south of Livingston.

This proposed ban recognizes the special nature of Yellowstone Park and the surrounding region. And it deserves to become law.

The ban would affect plans by the Crevice Mining Group, which already has a claim on public land near Jardine, close to the park’s boundary. And Lucky Minerals Inc., is looking for gold deposits on private land near Emigrant Peak. Both would be prevented from expanding their mining plans by the ban.

We all benefit from the fruits of mining. But mining is a messy business. And nobody should know that better than Montanans. We have a history of despoiled land left behind by the mining industry. One need look no further than Butte’s Berkeley Pit for evidence.

And there are some places where it is simply inappropriate to leave the permanent scars of hardrock mining and take the risks of wholesale pollution it can cause. Yellowstone is just such a special place. Congress recognized that when they designated it the world’s first national park in 1872.

Despite the extensive development of the last century and a half, there are still untapped mineral deposits throughout the West. Unfortunately, the mining industry is still governed by the 1872 Mining Law, which was adopted in an era when the West was viewed as a vast emptiness to be exploited for its riches. And the law provides for little control over this industry. One hundred forty-five years later, we have found new land-use values that prize the land for the recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat it offers.

Congress won’t find the political will to update the antiquated mining law any time soon. But Tester’s proposal will at least provide some protection for Yellowstone Park and its surrounding area.

To be sure, his proposal faces a tough challenge of getting passed by Congress. Still, we wholeheartedly applaud the effort and wish the senator well in protecting the jewel that is Yellowstone.