USDA Forest Service Announces Intent to Open Comments on Rainy River Mineral Removal in Northern Minnesota

Duluth, Minnesota, June 23, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and the Department of the Interior’s Office of Land Management say they will soon open public comments on an environmental assessment requesting to remove land from a new mining lease for 20 years in the Rainy River watershed. The Rainy River Watershed is adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Area in the Upper National Forest.

The Notice of Comments is expected to be published in the Federal Register on June 28, 2022. Once published, the environmental assessment will be available for review and comment for 30 days on the project’s website at go.usa.gov/ xtaCw.

Public comments are most useful when they are as detailed as possible, refer to specific activities, or suggest solutions. These comments will be used to help the Forest Service ensure that the impacts and issues associated with removal are fully considered in the environmental assessment.

Background

Because the Bureau of Land Management is responsible for the management of subsurface minerals on federally managed public lands, including national forests, the Forest Service may direct the Bureau of Land Management to remove land from the mining lease for the benefit of surface ecosystems. The Rainy River watershed flows north to Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park, a landscape renowned for high quality fishing, wildlife viewing and recreational opportunities due to the large number of interconnected lakes and pristine water quality. The proposed mining levy is intended to prevent further negative environmental impacts from future mining operations. It also assesses the impacts of future mining on important social, cultural and economic values.

After the Forest Service and partner agencies complete environmental assessment and public engagement, the Secretary of the Interior will decide whether to remove the area from future mining lease for 20 years.

These actions are subject to valid existing rights and do not apply to private lands within the setback area.

The environmental assessment is one of the components of the removal request package that the Forest Service prepares for the Bureau of Land Management. The Bureau of Land Management has the final authority to determine if the application is complete and will make a final recommendation on whether or not to accept the application to the Secretary of the Interior. The case file also includes a mineral resource report, social and economic impact report, recreation and wilderness report, cultural resource report and other documents. The Forest Service is expected to submit the complete dossier to the Office of Land Management in late 2022 or early 2023.

In October 2021, when the withdrawal request was first submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, a joint 90-day public comment period and three public meetings were held. The Bureau of Land Management received approximately 200,000 letters regarding the proposal. Comments received were considered and considered in the development of this environmental assessment.

Once the EA is available, comments can be submitted via the web form by selecting the “Comment/Object to Project” link on the project page at go.usa.gov/xtaCw. Electronic comments are preferred, but written comments will also be accepted. Written comments should be sent to:

Subject: Mineral Removal
8901 Grand Ave Place
Duluth, MN 55808

Please note that comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of the project file and will be available for public inspection. For more information about the project, visit the Withdrawal Project page at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=60916.

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