(Press release) — The comment period for a proposed mineral withdrawal in the Black Hills National Forest will close on December 23, 2015. The proposed withdrawal includes approximately 17,486.90 acres of National Forest System Lands in Wyoming and South Dakota, which would be withdrawn from mining laws for a 20-year period, subject to valid existing rights. The stated purpose of the proposal is to protect four Research Natural Areas and seven Botanical Areas within the Black Hills National Forest which total 9,739.11 acres, making the proposed withdrawal approximately 80 percent larger than the areas it is intended to protect.

The withdraw covers portions three mining districts in South Dakota, and two in Wyoming. The proposed withdrawal would significantly impact any future exploration efforts in the mining districts.  Currently, proposed exploration activity within a Research Natural Area or Botanical Area must be permitted through the NEPA process on a project by project basis. The NEPA process already gives the US Forest Service the authority to determine if unique qualities of a Research Natural Area or Botanical Area would be negatively impacted by proposed exploration, and ultimately deny exploration permits if is that is the case.

For more information go to the project page on the Black Hills National Forest website.

The USFS must receive comments on or before December 23, 2015. Comments should be sent to the Forest Supervisor, Black Hills National Forest, 1019 North 5th Street, Custer, South Dakota 57730 or the BLM Montana State Director, 5001 Southgate Drive, Billings, Montana 59101.

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