Friday, March 22, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear gold dredging/endangered species case

A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling ordering the U.S. Forest Service to consult with wildlife agencies prior to granting Notices of Intent to weekend hobbyists using suction dredges to mine for gold in northern California was allowed to stand by the nation’s highest court Monday. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, The New 49’ers, Inc., et al. v. Karuk Tribe of California. Environmental NGOs and the Karuk Indian tribe, which filed the original litigation to stop gold dredging in the Coho Salmon critical habitat in northern California called the original June decision an historic one. While the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge who wrote the dissenting opinion on the case--believed the 9th Circuit ruling has ramifications well beyond the weekend hobbyist miners who dredge for gold along the Klamath River. The decision “effectively shuts down the entire suction dredge mining industry in the states within our jurisdiction,” wrote Circuit Judge Milan Smith, Jr., in June 1, 2012. These states include the mining states of Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Washington...more

And here's the Karuk Tribe's take on the decision:

Supreme Court: ESA Trumps 1872 Mining Act

Today the Supreme Court let stand a decision from the En Banc panel of 11 judges of the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that essentially establishes that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) trumps the 1872 Mining Act. Recreational mining groups had filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking that they overturn the lower court decision, but the petition was denied.

"This decision is a great victory for the Karuk Tribe and everyone else who believes that federal agencies must act to protect our natural resources and fisheries," according to Buster Attebery, Chairman of the Karuk Tribe...

The Appeals Court rejected that claim, concluding that: "We therefore hold that the Forest Service violated the ESA by not consulting with the appropriate wildlife agencies before approving NOIs to conduct mining activities in coho salmon critical habitat within the Klamath National Forest."

"This decision sets a major precedent across the western states," said Roger Flynn, lead attorney representing the Tribe, and the Director and Managing Attorney of the Western Mining Action Project, a Colorado-based non-profit environmental law firm specializing in mining issues in the West. "The government and miners had argued that the archaic 1872 Mining Law, which is still on the books today, overrides environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act. The Appeals Court flatly rejected that untenable position and today the Supreme Court refused to overturn that ruling." said Flynn....

Although focused on the mining in northern California, the Forest Service's practice of failing to consider the ESA when approving smaller-scale mining projects such as suction dredging occurs throughout the West.

No comments: