The Wilderness Society today strongly criticized the passage of the Minnesota Education Investment and Employment Act (H.R. 5544) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation would open 86,000 acres to unchecked mining and logging. Popular snowmobile routes, hunting sites, hiking and canoe routes and other widely used recreational sites within Superior National Forest could be closed.
“This bill would facilitate expanded mining on our public lands without regard to environmental consequences,” said Paul Spitler, director of wilderness policy at The Wilderness Society. “The pollution from mining would directly impact the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, in addition to other recreation havens surrounding the area, like Lake Superior.”
At first glance, H.R. 5544 appears to be a land exchange of Minnesota School Trust Lands within the Wilderness Area, but it has serious defects. Specifically,
· H.R. 5544 does not protect lands with high recreational or ecological value. The federal lands to be exchanged are not identified in the legislation or accompanying materials. Nor does the bill provide direction for the qualifications for federal lands to be exchanged. As a result, all federal lands within the Superior National Forest are possible exchange candidates and there are no protections for lands with high recreational or ecological values.
· H.R. 5544 waives NEPA and public comment. The land exchange between the state and the Forest Service will not be transparent and the public will have no opportunity to comment on the merits of the various parcels. The exclusion of public participation will hurt all stakeholders, including local private property owners and all recreational users.
H.R. 5544 joins a laundry list of bills that have been introduced during the 112th Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives that would strip protections from nearly half a billion acres of America’s wilderness. Learn more these bills in The Wilderness Society report, “Wilderness Under Siege.”