Good news, but it is complicated.
Wild Horses are the only animal in our nation legally defined by the land they stand, not what they are biologically.
Wild horses are the only public resource with a heartbeat managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Wild horses are a legally defined “public resource,” like grass or minerals. They are not a legally defined “use” of the land, like mining and livestock.
Those statements above might seem like obvious ones; but their meanings have critical implications.
- Jurisdiction; a free roaming horse or burro in the United States is legally defined as “wild under law” if it walks on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or Forest Service (USFS) land. Tribal horses (like the fiasco of the Navajo and Yakima) are private property under law. Areas like the Virginia Range, or Fort Polk, are defined by state laws. Corolla has it’s own law passed to manage the herd as part of a National Wildlife Refuge. Assateague gets really interesting, National Park Service manages the Maryland side, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company owns and manages the Virginia side through a special use permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Wild horses under law, are an anomaly for BLM. They do not analyze the impacts to wild horses from mining and livestock with in-depth data (sometimes no real data at all, NAS reports 1982-2013). BLM does not even identify and preserve areas of critical habitat.
- BLM operates in a prioritized fashion for profit driven permit issuing.
The greatest implication of the statements above is that advocacy must become familiar with federal laws, that interact with state laws, that create management of public resources… of which the wild horse is one.
In a state like Nevada livestock and mining must gain a permit to extract (use) water from the state, and a permit from the federal government to make a profit from the public resource, the grass or the minerals.
As a wild horse advocate these are important issues.
Mt Hope Molybdenum Mine
This is one of those times when understanding how federal and state law work on our public lands, creates projects that have massive impacts and our wild horses tend to be a footnote on a footnote, in any of these protocols.
The Mount Hope Molybdenum mine has a long and twisted history. The history includes multiple water hearings beginning in 2010 (we attended and protested), a Chinese billionaire backer, pipes and equipment left to rust and deteriorate as the project came to a financial screech and, recently, a Ninth Circuit court ruling vacating (overturning) BLM’s permitting of the project. (article in the Elko Times describing some of the history of Mt. Hope)
In March of 2019 BLM released a supplemental EIS to, again, permit the mine. BLM has not published any Final (FEIS) on this project yet.
Prior to any mining operation beginning, they need a water permit. Mining uses an extraordinary amount of water, sometimes with massive environmental impacts that contaminate, draw down, or otherwise impact living things; human, insect, bird, mammal, reptile…. for a very long time.
The Mt Hope project area is located in what was once referenced as the Kobeh wild horse herd area (HA). The area was subdivided and divided, omitting critical data, in the Herd Management Areas (HMA) that we have in that area now (the northernmost section of Fish Creek, Roberts Mountain, Whistler). The HMA boundaries are drawn absurdly, with one area even devoid of a single, year round, water source.
The Kobeh HA has been an area of discussion, contention and ongoing frustration for those of us at Wild Horse Education that have been trying to address serious long standing issues in the decades old land use plan utilized by the BLM district. The district has not addressed a single deficit, is aware of these deficits since at least 2010 (when we began discussions) yet continues to permit all kinds of profit driven uses based on that archaic land use plan, in deficit of the wild horse.
We are continuing our work, supporting the work of others. One such action WHE supports is that of the Appeal of the water permit that had a prehearing today. The prehearing now moves forward into the process of laying the foundation for a hearing.
Basically, today was the argument for the right to argue.
Dangerous Precedent Defeated Today
Today a Prehearing Conference Eureka Moly, LLC – Mount Hope Project (Water Pollution Control Permit NEV2008106) was heard by a three-member panel of the State Environmental Commission (SEC).
On November 16, 2018, a request for an appeal hearing was submitted to the State Environmental Commission (SEC) by Great Basin Resource Watch (GBRW). On April 11, 2019, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) submitted a motion to vacate the scheduled appeal hearing and instead, convene for a prehearing conference. This request was unopposed. The subject of the prehearing conference concerns the renewal of Water Pollution Control Permit No NEV2008106, issued to the Eureka Moly, LLC, for the Mount Hope mining project.
Even with the Appeal to the pollution controls for the mine, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) prepared the Supplemental EIS to approve the project in March of 2019.
GBRW alleges that the NDEP Water Pollution Control permit renewal issued to Eureka Moly, LLC for the Mount Hope project is subject to appeal based upon the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) determination that “there is no degradation of waters of the State, that closure cannot be ensured due to an inadequate mine plan, that there has been no exemption to Eureka Molly, LLC, and that NDEP determined the pit lake will cause no harm.” In addition, the “plan” allows data collection and segmenting the permitting process, denying the “right to appeal” that must be made to an entire plan of operations, as well as, the potential for environmental disaster in proposing an inadequately analyzed action such as the scope of this mine.
Today, the panel has denied the motion to dismiss and is allowing the case against the pollution controls in the water permit to move forward. The right to Appeal has been upheld.
Complicated? You bet. It gets even more complicated.
On June 13th, as this prehearing was scheduled the follow week, The Mount Hope Project sent out a press release; “Water Rights Won by Mine!”
“Once those permits are in place, all the water right permits and the record of decision for the EIS, and we have a strong moly price, then we’ll start working on the finance package with our Chinese partner to obtain the loan to construct the Mount Hope project,” Rogers said.
It appears that part of the former opposition, several of the stockmen in the area, have all joined some “cooperative” and a “Sustainability Trust” (“Trust” translates as money), opening the door for the Chinese bank loan.
Where does this appeal fit in the process?
You can see there is a long and complicated fight ahead.
For the wild horse advocate
The complexities of process become even more complex when agencies shirk responsibilities, make excuses and accusations, instead of professionally, and completely, addressing the avenues tasked to them by law (the ones they get paychecks, benefits and retirement from, off the tax-payer).
In the case of the wild horses in these areas, and all over the western landscape, underlying documents that adequately identify critical habitat, critical seasonal routes, baseline for genetic stability, simply do not exist. What does exist are manipulations of the fragments of information they actually have, beginning with the original survey work that determined boundary lines for wild horses that are, in truth, set with no scientific basis and often in contradiction of the information they had at hand.
WHE were at todays hearing and provided a supporting statement. WHE will continue to support GBRW in this important, complicated, and necessary action.
Coming soon: The Resource Management Plan, what a wild horse advocate needs to know.
Help us stay in the fight.
Wild Horse Education Position at the Pre-Hearing
June 19, 2019
Statement to Commissioners,
- We oppose the motion by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection to dismiss the appeal by Great Basin Resource Watch on the matter of the Water Pollution Control Permit for the proposed Mount Hope Molybdenum Mine.
- To, in essence, create a new mechanism that changes the course of long standing policy and protocol for one project, Mount Hope Molybdenum Mine, would be irresponsible to the citizens of the state of Nevada.
- We must maintain the right to review, comment and amend proposed actions, prior to any permitting, to protect the quality of life for our citizens and our natural environment.
- The permitting of the Plan of Operations under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is done through environmental impact statement (EIS) process which analyzes the entire operation, and allows for comment, amendment and/or appeal of any aspect of the mine prior to construction. The intention is to protect the public, before it becomes too late to stop impacts that have lasting, or irreversible, consequences.
- To divide up this process, with some unknown component only appealable after construction, is a dangerous precedent, and is illegal under federal law. The potential damage to the integrity of the environment, and to the law, once done can not be undone.
- There must be an opportunity for the public to review and challenge an entire proposed action in a transparent and public process.
- A fundamental function under US law is the right to legal remedy within due process. This appeal should be considered in full and not dismissed.
As a citizen of the state of Nevada, and a Nevada non-profit focused on issues of our natural environment, we oppose the motion by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection dismiss the appeal by Great Basin Resource Watch on the matter before you now; Water Pollution Control Permit No. NEV2008106.
We urge you to demonstrate your responsibility to Nevadans and deny the motion to dismiss.
The commission denied the motion to dismiss filed by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection to dismiss. The GBRW Appeal now moves into a full hearing.
Categories: Wild Horse Education