The Absaroka Mountains can be seen in Paradise Valley in Montana. Photo: Bill Young

Secretary Zinke embraces view that some areas are 'too precious' for development

Secretary Ryan Zinke of the Department of the Interior is sounding like his Obama administration predecessor when it comes to development on certain federal lands.

According to a spokesperson, Zinke believes an area in Montana near Yellowstone National Park is "too precious to mine," The Associated Press reported. So he's supporting a withdrawal of future gold mining claims on federal land in that area, which is known as Paradise Valley.

The Obama administration took a similar step when it canceled all of the oil and gas leases in another area of Montana known as Badger-Two Medicine. Former Secretary Sally Jewell said the land should "never" have been opened to development due to its importance to the Blackfeet Nation.

"It is both spectacular," Jewell said of Badger-Two Medicine during a ceremony at Interior last November, "but more importantly a sacred site and very important to the culture and the values and the story of the Blackfeet Nation and its people, going back to time immemorial."

Zinke's stance on Badger-Two Medicine is being put to the test because one of the holders of a canceled lease continues to fight the decision in federal court. The Trump administration has not made any significant filings since January 20 that would reveal its position.

As for Paradise Valley, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) said a permanent ban on gold mining claims is the only solution. He supported the tribe in its efforts to protect Badger-Two Medicine.

"An administrative withdrawal would be a step in the right direction, but we have no guarantee that the current review will even recommend a withdrawal," Tester said in a press release. "And even the best-case-scenario means a mine could threaten the doorstep to Yellowstone 20 years from now, sticking our kids with a fight they shouldn't have to fight."

Read More on the Story:
US interior secretary urges mining ban near Yellowstone (The Associated Press August 28, 2017)

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