Update: BLM extends comment period for mining ban

The Bureau of Land Management has extended public comment on plans to ban any new mining on critical sage grouse habitat.

On Sept. 24, the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service announced a temporary ban on new mining claims on lands critical to sage grouse survival in six Western states. In Montana, the ban applies to more than 983,000 acres of BLM land, mostly around the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. See an earlier story on the proposal here.

The temporary ban would apply for up to two years, during which agencies would conduct an analysis of the effects of mining on sage grouse in those areas. If it determines that mining would further imperil the sage grouse, the BLM could extend the ban for up to 20 years.

The BLM had allowed 90 days for public comment on the temporary closure but announced last week that comments would be accepted until Jan. 15.

In the meantime, the BLM will hold public meetings in six Western states to explain the ban and gather more comments.

In Montana, a two-hour meeting will be held in Malta at the Grand Northern Hotel, 2 South 1st Street East, at 2 p.m. on Dec. 16.

For those unable to attend the meeting, written comments should be addressed to the BLM Director, 1849 C Street NW (WO-200), Washington, D. C. 20240 or sent electronically to sagebrush_withdrawals@blm.gov.