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Public Access to Hundreds of Millions of Acres of Public Lands Preserved

Today, December 13, 2005, Congressman Jim Gibbons (R-Nevada), Chairman of the House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee announced that he was officially dropping the controversial mining provisions that he and House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-California) inserted into a budget reconciliation bill.

“We applaud Congressman Gibbons' decision to drop the mining subtitle from the budget reconciliation bill,” said Stephen D'Esposito, president of EARTHWORKS. “We welcome the call of Representative Gibbons, and the call of Senators around the West from both parties, to consider meaningful mining reform in the coming year and we look forward to working with all parties to promote the multiple goals of protecting communities and our public lands, safeguarding our natural resource heritage, and ensuring economic development and responsible mining practices.”

If the mining provisions had passed, they would have allowed land speculators and multi-national mining and energy corporations to take ownership of hundreds of millions of acres of federal public lands in the West. In the process, public lands now used by millions of Americans for hunting, fishing and myriad other recreational purposes could have been placed off limits. According to federal data, recreational spending by visitors to these lands contributes approximately $8 billion per year to local economies. The provisions also would have prohibited the federal government from imposing royalties on minerals and metals removed from public lands, thus foregoing billions of dollars in potential revenues that could help offset the nation's staggering budget deficit.

A bipartisan group of western Senators opposed the mining subtitle, as well as a broad coalition of hunters, anglers, and other recreational users of public lands along with conservationists and business leaders such as jewelry retailers.

“The diversity and breadth of the coalition that joined forces to protect our public lands and call for an open, thorough debate on mining law reform was impressive” continued D'Esposito. “The coalition ranged from trout fisherman to jewelers to county officials in the West. This same coalition will now work with congressional leaders, mining company officials and others towards mining law reform that balances all objectives and interests. “

In grappling with this mining language it has become clear that the use of our public lands must balance responsible mining with other vital uses of these lands, as well as conservation,” said Alan Septoff, Research Director of EARTHWORKS.” And it is this balance that we should seek to strike in future debate about the fate of our country's mining laws.”

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