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Friday Last Chance to Comment on BLM Sale of Public Land for Mining

Critics say the Bureau of Land Management should fine a mining company accused of dumping and require cleanup, rather than sell the public land and its mining rights to that company. (Tom Egan/CA Desert Rep./Defenders of Wildlife)
Critics say the Bureau of Land Management should fine a mining company accused of dumping and require cleanup, rather than sell the public land and its mining rights to that company. (Tom Egan/CA Desert Rep./Defenders of Wildlife)
January 3, 2019

LUCERNE VALLEY, Calif. – Friday is your last chance to speak out on a controversial land deal in which the Bureau of Land Management wants to sell some sensitive land to a company accused of polluting it.

An international mining conglomerate called Omya was cited in 2011 for dumping waste rock from its calcium carbonate mine on a 70-acre parcel in the desert near the San Bernardino National Forest and Lucerne Valley.

Nada Culver, senior counsel and director of the BLM Action Center at The Wilderness Society, says the land has been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern – something that would have to be changed for the deal to go through.

"To actually take the radical step of amending the land use plan, to take away that special designation, that in and of itself is a radical step, but to sell the land, sell the mineral rights to a company that trespassed on this land, we would characterize it as not just a run-of-the-mill bad idea but in fact a spectacularly bad idea," she states.

The land is part of the California Desert Conservation Area and is considered an important wintering area for mule deer.

It's also part of a narrow corridor of public land used by bighorn sheep and the golden eagle, and contains a rare desert spring that supports many species of wildlife and plants.

In the draft plan, the BLM justifies the sale by noting that the mine supports 50 jobs and has contributed $800,000 in tax revenue.

Culver says the deal would go against the BLM's core mission.

"These are not things to be taken lightly,” she stresses. “You know, the BLM is obligated to protect these types of areas. The BLM is obligated to keep public lands in public hands. It's actually their obligation under their own laws."

The public comment period ends Friday on the BLMs e-planning site.

The Sierra Club also is circulating a petition opposing the deal.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA