Withdrawal of Land in Superior National Forest


Title: Superior National Forest; Minnesota; application for withdrawal

Docket ID: FS_FRDOC_0001

Agency: United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management

Comments Close: August 11, 2017



The United States Forest Service has proposed a withdrawal of land within the Superior National Forest of Northeaster Minnesota from “disposition under United States mineral and geothermal leasing laws”. The withdrawal request is intended to protect “the natural resources and waters” located on these lands from the “potential adverse environmental impacts arising from exploration and development of fully federally-owned mining operations." This notice specifically extends the public comment period for the request for withdrawal and announces the opportunity for a future public meeting.



This notice revises the current scoping period for the preparation of an environmental impact statement on the withdrawal of lands in Superior National Forest. The scoping period is the first of four stages conducted when producing an environmental impact statement.
Environmental impact statements are required by the National Environmental Policy Act to assess the impacts of major federal actions.

"The US Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held a public meeting within the initial 90-day comment period to gather public input on the proposed request for withdrawal … on March 16, 2017 in Duluth, MN. The scoping period will be extended an additional 120 days to accommodate the immense public interest and complexity of the proposal. Within the first 30 days, more than 30,000 written comments were received on the withdrawal proposal. The scoping period extension will also allow more time for additional public meetings.... Further opportunities for public participation will be provided upon publication of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, including a minimum 45-day public comment period."

The area for the proposed request are within the Rainy River watershed, adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Mining Protection Area. These areas fell under the National Wilderness Preservation System established by the Wilderness Act of 1964, and the BWCAW was established by the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act of 1978 to place restrictions on logging, mining, and use of motorized vehicles in the area.



“The United States Forest Service (USFS) has submitted an application to the Secretary of Interior proposing a withdrawal, for a 20-year term, of approximately 234,328 acres of National Forest Service lands within the Rainy River Watershed on the Superior National Forest from disposition under United States mineral and geothermal leasing laws, subject to valid existing rights. This proposal will also include an amendment to the Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan to reflect this withdrawal.”

“There is known interest in the development of hardrock minerals that have been found—and others that are thought to exist—in sulfide-bearing rock” within the region of the Rainy River Watershed proposed for withdrawal. “Any development of these mineral resources could ultimately result in the creation of permanently stored waste materials and other conditions upstream of the BWCAW and the Mining Protection Area with the potential to generate and release water with elevated levels of acidity, metals, and other potential contaminants... Any failure of mitigation measures, containment facilities or remediation efforts at mine sites and their related facilities located upstream of the BWCAW and the Mining Protection Area could lead to irreversible impacts upon natural resources.”


Contributor: PhD Student, Quantitative Ecology and Management