.. The land that was sold held a gold supply of an estimated $10 billion. Surely the deeply indebted United States Government would prosper from a sale of that much gold, but by law the government was forced to sell it for $5 and acre. The government received less then $10,000 for the deal. (Arrandale 531) In relation to the mining law the government does not require the miners to restore mined site once the minerals are gone, preventing wastes from polluting surrounding lands and nearby streams. Former Interior Secretary Stewart L.
Udall says, ” The hardrock mining industry has traditionally been able to externalize costs, as economist say, simply by abandoning its played-out mines rater then reclaiming them.” Arrandale 534) The fact that there is 500,000 abandoned mines, proves that is true. These mines are polluting 32 states because of the use of the new “heap leaching” technology that uses cyanide solutions to extract gold from ore. The EPA is now spending $40,000 a day to control cyanide leaking form a Summitville Colo., gold mine that a mining company abandoned. (Arrandale 534). I feel that the United States Government needs to amend the mining law, so that it can address some of the previously mentioned problems. I feel that companies should be allowed to remove viable minerals but I they should have regulations placed on them.
The U.S. Supreme Court and state courts have upheld state regulations of oil and gas operations to prevent waste. (Kusler 147) Since minerals are of a fixed supply I feel that they should be regulated for future use. The mines that do extract a predetermined amount of minerals, would also be required to restore the sight back to the natural state of the land. Not only would they be required to return the surface of the land, but also the underlying ground, so as it is not polluted.
But they would not receive this land for a mere $5 and acre, I propose that they be charges a curtain percentage of the gold removed as rent for the land, for as long as they mine the land. Upon incorporation of all of these laws, which none of the current mines would be excempt from, I feel there would be a reduction of mines. With less mines mineral supplies would be preserved, and the price of minerals would go up, returning profit to the remaining mines, and supporting the government. Another area of the land managed by the BLM is rangeland. Since rangelands account for nearly 162 million acres of public land the nation’s rangelands are a vast source of renewable resources.
Among many other values the range supports about 4 million head of livestock which is an important element in the economic well-being of many rural communities and the almost 20,000 operators who depend on public land grazing to support them. BLM is principally seen by the public as manager of the public rangelands. The approval from the public for the BLM then is mostly related to their management of the grazing lands. Support for the BLM is basically based on the management and conditions of the range lands that are under their control. So the BLM sets below-market livestock grazing fees and loose federal regulations of how ranchers mangage sheep and cattle on public lands. Ranchers now pay $1.98 per “animal unit month”(AUM)- enough forage to feed one cow and a calf, five sheep or a horse for a month.
On the other hand privately owned ranges in the West leased for nearly five times that amount, an average of $9.25 per AUM. (Arrandale 534) Having fees this low give an incentive for the rancher to put more animals out to graze on the deteriorating land. Why graze one cow on private land, when you can graze at least four on government land. Of course this is the classic Tragedy of the Commons. Why should the ranchers care is they are destroying the public lands when they can move to a more productive spot when their land is destroyed. Because of this taxpayers spend millions of dollars subsidizing the damage of public lands.
Clearly grazing does belong on public lands, because if done correctly you are simply harvesting a natural renewable resource. But when you allow money hungry cattle ranchers to graze as many cattle as they please, you begin destroying the land. So I feel that there should be an environmental assessment of the grazing lands, to determine a sustainable AUM for the land, to insure there is no further damage sustained by the land. Once this is determined you can charge them a fair price that is competitive with the price of private land. This way the government could produce more revenue for it self, while again protecting the land.
These are just a few of the changes that need to occur on the public lands. And some simple and broad solutions to the problems. You could not even start to give all of the issues and possible solutions for a single one of the problems that I addressed in a paper of this length. But for an overall solution the government needs to redefine it’s older laws, so that the government can have better control over public lands. Included with the changing of the laws would be a price increase for the resources that the government is basically, at the present time, giving away.
When this occurs it may help with the huge debt of the country, and by different means then taxing the common people of the country. This would require the rich mining companies, to actually pay for the gold that they are removing from the ground. And with all these regulations in place, and strict guidelines to the extent of extraction of natural resources, the environment, and ecosystems will improve. Bibliography Arrandale, Tom. “Public Land Policy.” CQ Researcher 28 (1994): 531-540. Beatley, Timothy.
Ethical Land Use: Principles of Policy and Planning. Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 1994. Houston, Douglas. “Ecosystems of Natinal Parks.” Science 172 (1971): 648-651. Kusler, Jon. Regulating Sensitive Lands. Cambridge: Ballinger, 1980.
United States. Bueau of Land Management. Issues for the 90’s., 1989. Wondolleck, Julia. Public Lands Conflict and Resolution: Managing National Forest Disputes. New York: Plenum, 1988. Management of the BLM’s Public Lands System.