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USDA Forest Service Announces Plans to Open Comments on Rainy River Mineral Withdrawal in Northern Minnesota

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management is announcing that they will soon be opening up public comment on an Environmental Assessment requesting to withdraw lands from new mineral leasing for 20 years in the Rainy River watershed. The Rainy River watershed is adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the Superior National Forest.

The notice to comment is expected to publish in the Federal Register on June 28, 2022. Once posted, the Environmental Assessment will be available for review and comment for 30 days on the project 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 impacts and issues associated with the withdrawal are fully considered in the Environmental Assessment.

Background

Since the Bureau of Land Management is responsible for subsurface mineral management on federally managed public lands, including national forests, the Forest Service may request the Bureau of Land Management withdraw lands from mineral leasing for the benefit of surface ecosystems. The Rainy River watershed flows north toward the 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 mineral withdrawal aims to prevent further negative environmental impacts from future mining operations. It also evaluates the impacts of future mining on important social, cultural, and economic values.

Once the Forest Service and partner agencies complete the Environmental Assessment and public engagement, the Secretary of the Interior will decide whether to withdraw the area from future mineral leasing for 20 years.

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

The Environmental Assessment is one component of the withdrawal application case file that the Forest Service is preparing for the Bureau of Land Management. The Bureau of Land Management has the final authority to determine if the case file 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, a social and economic impact report, recreation and wilderness report, a cultural resources report, and other documentation. The Forest Service is expected to submit the completed case file to the Bureau of Land Management in late 2022 or early 2023.

In October 2021, when the withdrawal application 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 about the proposal. The comments received have been reviewed and considered in the development of this Environmental Assessment.

Source : usda.gov

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