RDC NEWS DIGEST
FOREST SERVICE RELEASES TONGASS PLAN
The U.S. Forest Service has released in draft form a revised land and resource management plan for the 16.8 million acre Tongass National Forest. The plan will guide multiple-use activities, including logging and mining, in the nation’s largest national forest.
RDC is supporting Alternative 7, which is the only alternative that truly strikes a balance among multiple uses. It provides a sufficient volume of “economic” timber to restore full integration in the region’s ailing forest products industry and to improve the economics of potential mineral development. Full implementation of the alternative would revitalize the industry and greatly boost the economy of local communities.
Alternative 7 would still leave approximately 80 percent of the old-growth timber undisturbed in perpetuity and 75 percent of the Tongass undeveloped.
RDC encourages its members to submit comments supporting Alternative 7 by April 12. For details, see RDC Action Alert at www.akrdc.org.
COURT INTENDS TO RULE AGAINST KENSINGTON PROJECT
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently stated it intends to reverse a lower court’s decision authorizing Coeur Alaska to use a small lake for disposal of tailings from its Kensington Mine 45 miles from Juneau.
A plan authorizing disposal of the mine’s waste rock was permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as it had the least environmental impact compared to other options.
Construction of the mine’s tailings facility was halted last summer pending the outcome of an appeal by three Southeast Alaska environmental groups. Work on other portions of the project has continued.
The Court said it intends to reverse a district court decision, vacating the permits and the Record of Decision authorizing the use of Lower Slate Lake as a disposal facility.
After mining, the reclaimed lake would be three times larger than its current size. The larger lake would have improved productivity and aquatic habitat. Native fish would be restocked. Currently the lake is relatively unproductive and naturally-occurring water quality does not presently meet state standards.
COURT ISSUES REVISED ROCK CREEK PERMIT
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reinstated a permit that would allow the Rock Creek Mine near Nome to move forward.
A permit was issued in August, but was suspended in December in response to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court.
The Corps announced last month that it had determined Alaska Gold Company’s permit was consistent with applicable laws and regulations. The modified permit makes changes in wetlands mitigation and reduces the amount of wetland acreage utilized.
RDC OPPOSES NEW REFUGES
RDC submitted comments to the Alaska Board of Game opposing Proposition 204, which calls for the Board to recommend to the Legislature the establishment of a wildlife refuge north of the Denali Highway and west of the Richardson Highway. The intent of this proposal is to stop hard rock mining in an area selected by the state for its high mineral potential. RDC also sent comments to the Alaska Board of Fisheries opposing the creation of a fish refuge near the Pebble copper and gold prospect in Southwest Alaska.
RDC WEIGHS IN ON BAY AREA PLAN
In a letter to the Bureau of Land Management, RDC supported Alternative B in the Bay Area Draft Resources Management Plan, which would provide maximum access to oil, gas and mineral resources in the Bristol Bay region.
RDC noted the planning area is rich in mineral resources and Alternative B would encourage responsible resource development in an economically-challenged region.
Forty-three percent of the region is permanently closed to mineral development. Of the federally-managed lands, only 1.4 percent or 152,746 acres are open to mineral entry.
RDC said the federal government should honor the “no more” principle of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act which implied no more administrative or legislative set asides of federal lands in Alaska. RDC believes other alternatives in the plan would compromise that principle. “New restrictions and closures of significant portions of the region to mineral entry is not necessary since the existing regulatory and permitting process provides extensive protection to our lands, wildlife and other resource users,” RDC said. The Bay planning area is under-explored for mineral resources due to land closures and poor access.