Understanding the land management relationship between the Western United States and the Federal Government can be hard, especially as it differs from state to state.
Here, the leader of American Exploration & Mining Association (AEMA), Laura Skaer and the Executive Director of the Idaho Mining Association (IMA), Ben Davenport team up to explain their roles and the responsibilities of the trade associations they run. Among such is the collaboration with government agencies at both the state and federal level.
Specifically, Skaer and Davenport describe how the Western United States as a whole, and individual states, particularly Idaho work with the Federal Government to mine minerals and explore for new minerals on public land in a safe and responsible way. The article was featured in the 2016 Fall 2016 edition of Northwest Mining & Timber.
Here in Idaho we live in a different world than most Americans. In the Northeast and Southern U.S. the only Federal government presence are military bases and small national parks or forests, so when conflict over access to public lands arise, it is as if we are in another world. But to Idahoans whom value open space and access to National forests and public lands, we get it.
What most Americans don’t realize is that a majority of the western United States is owned by the federal government. Federal agencies manage just under 650 million acres – almost 30 percent of the land area of the United States, but over 549,900,000 of those federal acres are located in the 12 westernmost states (AK, AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY) that’s 88 percent of the federal lands. In some states, which includes Oregon, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho the majority of land is owned by the federal government. Western states are unique in this aspect, east of the Mississippi, the reality is very different, only 4 percent of land is federal.
The question arises, how do western states, like Idaho, maintain the balance between their sovereignty and the fact federal agencies manage most of their state? National forest and public land access and management is a huge issue in Idaho, especially considering its vast mineral reserves. This issue is acutely understood by resource industries that operate in Idaho and the western United States. The ability to mine the raw materials essential to our everyday lives is at the core of this relationship.
Luckily, Idahoans have two strong voices representing mining and access to mineral deposits. The American Exploration & Mining Association (AEMA) and Idaho Mining Association (IMA) serve this region in different ways. Ben Davenport, newly appointed IMA Executive Director explained:
“Our geology is one of Idaho’s most important assets, and a healthy mining industry helps everyone, after all, Idaho mining helps provide the raw materials to power, build and feed America and provides good-paying jobs in Idaho’s communities.”
Laura Skaer, AEMA’s Executive Director, went on to explain:
“At the heart of all our work is protecting access to mineral deposits and the right to mine within the United States. While times have changed since the creation of AEMA, there is still a need for the work our associations do, life still relies on the essential minerals and metals responsibly mined throughout the United States.”
The two associations complement each other in how they focus their resources, IMA is an active voice for mining in the Idaho statehouse, advocating for the good-paying jobs mining brings to Idaho’s communities and stewardship of Idaho’s lands. Whereas AEMA focuses on the federal side as a nationally recognized voice for exploration and public lands access and represents the entire mining life cycle, from exploration to production to reclamation. Skaer added:
“Our associations are complimentary, we couldn’t do what we do nationally without Ben’s work in Idaho. IMA is a valuable resource when we need to address Idaho specific issues at the federal level. Both IMA and AEMA’s priority is a strong mining industry.”
“Both IMA and AEMA reflect the modern industry that now exists. Modern mining is dedicated to environmental responsibility and sustainability and the highest health and safety standards. We are proud to work alongside and on behalf of our members, many of which are members of both, to protect access to public lands and the right to mine in the United States.”
Addressing Industry Issues
This partnership is not unique to mining. Industries all over Idaho have the same public lands concerns. It is this collaborative spirit that keeps the public lands open and productive in a responsible way…even if we don’t own them.
Tags: Idaho Mining Association, American Exploration & Mining Association, Federal Government, Public Lands, Mining