September 30, 2014
USDA Forest Service, Alaska Region
Attn.: 2800 Manual Supplement
P.O. Box 21628
Juneau, AK 99802-1628
Via email: FSfirstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Proposed U.S. Forest Service Manual Chapter 2800
To Whom It May Concern:
The Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc. (RDC) is writing to comment on the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) proposed supplement to the part of the Forest Service Manual (FSM) that guides mining operations on Admiralty Island and Misty Fiords national monuments in Southeast Alaska.
RDC is an Alaskan business association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, forest products, tourism and fisheries industries. RDC’s membership includes Alaska Native Corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.
RDC does not believe the additional FSM Supplement is necessary, and urges the U.S. Forest Service to halt its efforts to develop the unrequired and unnecessary Supplement. RDC is concerned the new Supplement will delay existing processes, without added benefit to the national monuments. Further, RDC is concerned the Supplement will conflict with existing FSM policies, as well as the intent of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
Additional Supplement not needed
RDC is concerned the USFS took it upon itself to develop this unneeded Supplement. There is not a legal requirement, nor precedence for the USFS to develop directives to clarify how to apply ANILCA in regards to mining operations in the two national monuments.
Mining within the two national monuments on the Tongass National Forest – Admiralty Island and Misty Fiords – is already subject to a complex set of legal requirements as provided in ANILCA, most of which apply only to these two national monuments. The proposed supplement is unnecessary since the existing regulatory and permitting process provides extensive protection to our lands, wildlife and other resource users.
The Supplement may delay existing processes
RDC is concerned the Supplement will hamper the existing rigorous, yet lengthy permitting process. Mining operations in Alaska must undergo review of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a multi-year review, and the scientifically based permitting process that includes over 60 major state and federal permits and authorizations.
It is a priority of RDC to promote and defend the integrity of Alaska’s permitting process and advocate for predictable, timely, and efficient state and federal permitting processes based on sound science and economic feasibility.
The Supplement may conflict with FSM policies and the intent of ANILCA
The lack of clarity in the Supplement raises concern the guidance will be binding instead of clarifying. The Supplement if adopted, should be consistent with existing FSM policies, and not result in further confusion. Additionally, it should reduce potential for legal disputes and not hinder the intent of ANILCA.
Lastly, RDC requests the USFS to fully address the detailed concerns and comments submitted by Hecla Greens Creek Mining Company (09/30/2014), an RDC member.
RDC urges the USFS to withdraw the proposed Supplement, and allow for existing policies, regulations, and processes to remain in place.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.