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Uranium Company Calls Us “Egregious”? Sierra Club Offers Defensible Facts.

In the Phoenix New Times story, Canyon Mine Faces Accusations of Environmental Racism by Navajos, Sierra Club (March 21, 2017), the vice president for marketing and corporate development at Energy Fuels Nuclear (USA) Inc., who owns Canyon Mine, had a few interesting things to say.  Unfortunately, he put forward no evidence behind his statements, and we have photos and documents to back up ours.

 

1.) Water being trucked from Canyon Mine has elevated levels of uranium, and possibly other toxic chemicals too.  The Phoenix New Times article reported: 

…a spokesman for Energy Fuels previously told the Arizona Daily Sun that the water being trucked through the Navajo Nation has three times the amount of dissolved uranium than is considered “safe” to drink. And in a November report to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the company noted that the water contains 30 times the recommended level of arsenic.

But now Curtis Moore, vice president for marketing and corporate development at Energy Fuels, says that the water is not contaminated. “The excess water we are managing is relatively clean, and contains only trace amounts of natural uranium,” he wrote in an e-mailed response.

“In fact, the water we are trucking offsite either meets – or comes very close to meeting – EPA drinking water standards for dissolved uranium.”

FACT: Energy Fuels Nuclear (USA) Inc. told the Arizona Daily Sun that the water contained 90 micrograms per liter, three times the drinking water “standard” of 30 micrograms per liter set by the EPA.  This level of uranium contamination was confirmed in a conversation between Sierra Club and the Kaibab National Forest on March 17, 2017. This level is lower than the amount that Energy Fuels Nuclear (USA) Inc. reported to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in its “General Aquifer Protection Permit Annual Report for 2016”, when they reported 130 micrograms per liter of uranium (over four times the drinking water standard) and 292 micrograms per liter of arsenic (over 29 times the drinking water standard for arsenic) in water taken from the shaft of Canyon Mine on November 9, 2016.

 

2.) Contaminated water is being sprayed in the air – and radioactive mist is drifting into the Kaibab National Forest.

Making matters even worse, the Sierra Club says, Energy Fuels is now spraying some of the water from the mine into the air in an attempt to get it to evaporate. Photos captured by Sierra Club and Haul No! volunteers appear to show radioactive mist drifting into the Kaibab National Forest, which surrounds the mine…

Curtis Moore of Energy Fuels disputed the environmental group’s claims.

“We are not blowing water into the forest, as the Sierra Club claims,” he wrote in his e-mailed response.

“We have employed some commonly utilized enhanced evaporation machines that creates a mist over the pond to speed evaporation rates, which we shutdown during high-wind days to avoid the potential of the mist of this relatively clean water from crossing our fence-line.”

FACT: Here’s a picture taken at Canyon Mine on March 12, 2017, outside the perimeter fence of Canyon Mine, on a day when the average wind speed was only 4mph at the nearby Grand Canyon Airport, with gusts of 20 to 30 mph.

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

 

Aaaaaand, here’s another one:

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

Sure looks to me like the toxic mist is hitting the forest…

 

3.) Trucks moving uranium-laced water through the Navajo and Ute Nations are mislabelled or poorly marked.

FACT:  This photo shows a truck arriving at Canyon Mine’s front gate to pick up a load of water headed for the White Mesa uranium mill in Blanding, Utah.  The placard says “1268” which is a marking indicating the truck is hauling petroleum products.  Nothing indicates the presence of uranium in the truck’s contents.

A truck arrives at Canyon Mine to pick up radioactively contaminated water to haul to the White Mesa uranium mill in Blanding, UT. The placard is labelled for petroleum products. Ryan Beam photo.

A truck arrives at Canyon Mine to pick up radioactively contaminated water to haul to the White Mesa uranium mill in Blanding, UT. The placard is labelled for petroleum products. Ryan Beam photo.

 

Facts.  Nothing but facts here.

Please let us know what you think.

 

 

U.S. Court of Appeals to Hear Back-to-Back Cases on Uranium Mining Threats to the Grand Canyon Region, Thursday Dec. 15 in San Francisco

 

IMG_9242

Uranium mining on the plateaus surrounding Grand Canyon threatens creeks below its rims.  Uranium contamination from the Orphan Mine has rendered Horn Creek, between the popular Bright Angel and Hermit Trails, undrinkable.

Contacts:

Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice (303) 641-3149tzukoski@earthjustice.org

Neil Levine, Grand Canyon Trust (720) 339-0800nlevine@grandcanyontrust.org

Richard W. Hughes, Rothstein Donatelli LLP, (505) 988-8004rwhughes@rothsteinlaw.com

Eric Bontrager, National Parks Conservation Association (202) 770.7419ebontrager@npca.org

Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club-Grand Canyon Chapter (602) 999-5790sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org

 

San Francisco — The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco will hear oral arguments Thursday, December 15 on two key cases involving uranium mining on public lands near Grand Canyon National Park.

In the first case, Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio, the Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club challenge the United States Forest Service’s decision to allow Energy Fuels Resources to reopen the Canyon uranium mine, which was initially approved in the 1980s and had been closed since 1992. The federal agency permitted this “zombie” mine to reopen without analyzing the mine’s environmental impacts in light of changed circumstances in the intervening quarter-century.

The Canyon Mine is located on the Kaibab National Forest, a few miles south of Grand Canyon National Park, and is within a one million acre area that was withdrawn from mining in 2012 due to concerns about uranium mining’s environmental and cultural threats to the Grand Canyon watershed.

2012 11 21 Canyon Mine aerial 2

Canyon Mine was approved with no new environmental review after being closed for a quarter of a century.

Richard Hughes of Rothstein Donatelli LLP will argue on behalf of the Havasupai Tribe; Neil Levine of Grand Canyon Trust will argue on behalf of conservation groups.

The second case, National Mining Association v. Jewell, involves mining and uranium industries’ challenges to the Interior Department’s 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon.

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Northern Arizona students protest uranium mining near Grand Canyon.

The ban was requested in 2008 by Arizona’s governor, local governments, American Indian tribes, recreationists, and conservation groups concerned about a uranium mining boom’s impact on groundwater, cultural resources, and the iconic landscapes surrounding the Grand Canyon. It was issued by then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2012. The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona upheld the ban in two rulings, one in 2013 (decision here) and the other in 2014 (decision here), and the mining interests appealed.

The nonprofit law firm, Earthjustice, will represent the Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and National Parks Conservation Association in defending the ban. Department of Justice attorneys will also defend the Interior Department’s decision.

 


What: Arguments in Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio and National Mining Association v. Jewell before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Where: Courtroom 4, Room 260

               James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse

               95 Seventh St.

             San Francisco, Calif.

When: Approximately 9:30 a.m. PST, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016

Streaming: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/live_oral_arguments.php.


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Praise for Rep. Kirkpatrick’s Endorsement of Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Thursday, September 30, 2016

Contact: Celia Barotz, cbarotz@gmail.com, (928) 853-7295

Photo of House Rock Valley from Kaibab Plateau: trees, canyon

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — Rep. Anne Kirkpatrick (AZ-1) today announced her support of the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, signing on as a co-sponsor to the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act. Kirkpatrick joins a long list of those speaking out for a monument designation, including more than 20 area Tribal Nations, more than 400 local businesses, and local and national leaders.

“I applaud Rep. Kirkpatrick for standing with many people in Arizona and throughout the country who want to safeguard these lands from new uranium mines,” said Celia Barotz, Vice-Mayor of Flagstaff.

The proposal enjoys strong support in the state, with 4 in 5 Arizonans supporting protecting the public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon as a national monument– support reflected nationwide with 82% of people in favor of the proposal. Across the country more than half a million people have joined the call for action by President Obama.

“What’s good for the environment is also good for our economy. People travel from around the world to see an untouched Grand Canyon, not uranium mining operations,” said Ash Patel, president and CEO of Southwest Hospitality Management, LLC and past chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association.  “Protecting Grand Canyon for future generations is dear to my heart. The step Rep. Kirkpatrick took today brings us one step closer to ensuring this natural beauty stays in its more rare form.”

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State of Arizona Asked to Reject Permit Renewals for Uranium Mines Near Grand Canyon National Park

For Immediate Release, August 15, 2016

Contact:

Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 890-7515, rclark@grandcanyontrust.org

Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, (602) 999-5790, sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org

Katie Davis, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 560-2414, kdavis@biologicaldiversity.org

2012 11 21 Canyon Mine aerial 2

Aerial view of Canyon Mine, 6 miles south of Grand Canyon National Park

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— Conservation groups today asked the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to deny air permits for three uranium mines near Grand Canyon and to continue monitoring a mine that is no longer active. All of these mines are located within watersheds (surface and ground) that drain directly into Grand Canyon National Park and threaten water, air and other important resources of the greater Grand Canyon ecoregion, including soil, wildlife, sacred Native American sites and the health of people who are exposed to the heavy metals and radiation associated with these mines.

Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity filed comments with ADEQ outlining ongoing concerns with the four uranium mines. The groups noted that in 2010, they, Coconino County Supervisor Carl Taylor and hundreds of citizens objected to issuing air permits for these mines because of unacceptable risks to residents and visitors to the Grand Canyon region. ADEQ has yet to address the substantive issues that were raised.

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Protestors ask for an end to uranium mining that risks contaminating groundwater near Grand Canyon.

Earlier this year, ADEQ suspended the permit renewal process after increased uranium levels were found in the soil near Pinenut Mine, north of Grand Canyon. Soil tests indicated that the uranium levels were four times higher than the normal background levels

“Once again we see the cumulative evidence of uranium contamination,” said Roger Clark with the Grand Canyon Trust. “When will the Grand Canyon State stop issuing permits to pollute our air and water?”

“For more than a half-century, uranium mining has permanently polluted our land, air and water. Its deadly legacy is well documented and yet state and federal agencies are still permitting new mines,” said Sandy Bahr with Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Given the proximity of these mines to Grand Canyon and the history of contamination, ADEQ should give these mines the utmost scrutiny and reject these permits.”

“Uranium mining on the Colorado Plateau unleashed an unending environmental disaster that has permanently scarred the landscape and local communities,” said Katie Davis with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is unconscionable that ADEQ would continue to sacrifice our natural heritage and the health of our fellow citizens by granting these permits.”

Background

In 2012 the Obama administration issued a “mineral withdrawal” prohibiting new mining claims and the development of claims lacking valid existing rights across 1 million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. Despite public protests and legal challenges from local American Indian tribes and conservation groups, federal agencies allowed several uranium mines established prior to the withdrawal, including the Canyon, AZ1, and Pinenut mines, to resume operations. All the mines are operated by Energy Fuels Resources, Inc., a company with a history of regulatory violations.

The Canyon Mine is located on the Kaibab National Forest, six miles south of Grand Canyon National Park. It is currently operating and has obtained federal permits, which are being challenged in federal court. The AZ1 and EZ mines are both located north of Grand Canyon on Bureau of Land Management lands. Operations at AZ1 are currently suspended. EZ mine is not yet operational and has not been permitted at the federal level. Though currently subject to reclamation activities, the Pinenut Mine site, located north of Grand Canyon on BLM lands, remains contaminated and continues to be a source of radioactive dust pollution.

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Learn about how you can weigh in on ADEQ’s uranium mine permits: http://www.azdeq.gov/PN/EnergyFuelsResources

Read our comments on the uranium mine permits: http://www.grandcanyontrust.org/sites/default/files/resources/gc_ADEQ_comments_8_15_16.pdf

Outdoor Retailer Show: Industry Leaders Call for Grand Canyon Monument

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Contact: Sarah Ponticello, info@gcwatershed.org, 831-998-2585

View as webpage

People standing on edge of a canyon with a quote from Nazz Kurth, president of Petzl America: "We cannot afford to stay static; a national monument is needed to preserve the outdoor experience of these public lands."

SALT LAKE CITY– As the Outdoor Retailer show gets underway in Salt Lake City,  leaders in the outdoor industry have united to urge President Obama to act quickly on a proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument in Arizona. The leaders join a long list of those speaking out for a monument designation, including more than 20 area Tribal Nations, nearly 100 local businesses, and local and national elected leaders.

The proposal enjoys strong support in the state, with 4 in 5 Arizonans supporting protecting the public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon as a national monument. Nationwide more than half a million people have joined the call for action by President Obama.

“During the Winter Outdoor Retailer show, it was clear that passions run deep in our industry for protecting the Greater Grand Canyon,” said John Sterling, executive director of the Conservation Alliance, which hosted a breakfast event that highlighted the monument proposal. “Since then support has continued to grow, as has the need to act. Now is the time to protect the Greater Grand Canyon’s heritage.”

“The Greater Grand Canyon boasts some great climbs, but it also hosts forests, grasslands and meadows. That opportunity for surprise is what ignites the passion for exploration that is central to Petzl’s mission. We cannot afford to stay static; a national monument is needed to preserve the outdoor experience of these public lands,” said Nazz Kurth, president of Petzl America.

“I’ve been fortunate to make a career out of my love for the outdoors, working with companies like Patagonia and Keen, which share my belief that access to wild places is foundational nourishment for the human spirit—a belief fed and watered largely by experiences offered by places like the Greater Grand Canyon,” said Casey Sheahan, Keen Footwear board of advisors.

“Future generations deserve to experience the unspoiled beauty of the Grand Canyon and the surrounding landscape as their ancestors did, as I and my family have,” said Danny Giovale, Kahtoola founder. “President Obama has an opportunity to ensure that all Americans have the chance to experience the grandeur of Grand Canyon’s watershed through the creation of the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. I urge him to work with the tribal nations and make a designation quickly. It’s a move that will benefit us all.”

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Perspective on a Contaminated Waterway – now what? #AnimasRiver

The recent spill of 3 million gallons of mine waste into the Animas and San Juan Rivers has been shocking – but it is a symptom of a larger problem, not a fresh new issue.

Happier days on the San Juan River. Alicyn Gitlin photo.

The San Juan River in Utah.  Change mining regulations and protect future mines from contaminating our waterways: https://secure.sierraclub.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=16086

Tens of thousands of abandoned mines await cleanup in the upper Colorado River and Animas headwaters, and hundreds of abandoned uranium mines are scattered across the Navajo Nation, surrounding the San Juan, Little Colorado, and Colorado Rivers.  The outdated Mining Act of 1872 does little to hold the companies accountable that created the waste and manage the mine holdings.

Meanwhile, fish in the San Juan and Animas Rivers have been in trouble for decades. It is important that people educate themselves before choosing to eat fish out of the San Juan – and highly problematic that some of our least privileged citizens are the most likely to subsistence fish from the San Juan, and to irrigate with its polluted waters.

There are several areas of the San Juan and Animas Rivers that are contaminated with uranium mining and milling waste. Fish in the San Juan have had extremely high levels of lesions infected with bacteria and parasites that are most likely caused by contaminants such as PAH’s that derive from oil and gas drilling. There is a large amount of agricultural runoff, and also a suite of contaminants that derive from coal power plant smoke stacks. There are extremely high levels of mercury in fish throughout the watershed, and the Animas has long contained a dead zone and contamination from uranium and gold mining. In the past 10 years, fish have been rapidly dying in the Animas headwaters because of the contaminants trickling out of this mine complex -hence the push to create a Superfund site (successfully fought by the town of Silverton) and the attempt by EPA to contain the mine leakage. The rivers have needed to be cleaned up for decades, and the recent spill is just one more awakening call – but not the sole source of the problem.

Here are some studies of contaminants in fish in the San Juan:

http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Documents/R2ES/San_Juan_River_Report-Volume%201.pdf

http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/boise/AWAE/labs/awae_flagstaff/Hot_Topics/ripthreatbib/chischilly_sanjuanriver.pdf

http://www.durangogov.org/DocumentCenter/View/55

http://www.fws.gov/southwest/sjrip/pdf/DOC_San_Juan_River_fish_health_surveys.pdf

And this from an article published in the Washington Post:

“According to the Herald, three of the four fish species in the Upper Animas water basin (which includes Cement Creek and drains into the Animas River) disappeared between 2005 and 2010. Five years after that, the river was completely devoid of fish.
Insects and bird species have also fared poorly. And tests of the water flowing into Bakers Bridge, about three dozen miles south of Silverton, found that it carried concentrations of zinc toxic to animals. U.S. Geological Survey Scientists told the paper that the area was the largest untreated drainage site in the state.”

Fish taken out of the Colorado River/Lake Powell have similar contaminants. Please realize that there is no requirement to notify the public about any of this. Mercury is the only contaminant that you (the public) must be notified about. Hopefully this spill triggers a big change, because it’s been too easy to brush this under the rug before now.

What can you do?  We are all anxiously watching this pollution move downstream, and we all feel mostly helpless.  There is not a lot that any of us can do right now.  But we can try to ensure that the future doesn’t repeat the past by changing the mining regulations.  Sign our petition to hold mining companies accountable for their messes.  Support the creation of Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument, which would prevent the development of new uranium mines on the plateaus surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.  Grand Canyon already has four waterways that are unsuitable for drinking and bathing because of contamination from abandoned uranium mines.

Thank you for caring.

More links:

EPA response information and water sampling data from upstream of Durango.

A map of oil and gas wells surrounding the San Juan River in part of New Mexico.  Remember, this only displays a small stretch of the San Juan. From these wells, we might expect contamination to seep slowly, rather than a big dramatic spill.

A link to an interview that features an informed discussion and a good description of what is being found in the polluted mess actively moving downstream.

A High Country News article that discusses the history of contamination in and around the Animas.

An Daily Kos article that discusses the history of abandoned mines and why this area wasn’t declared a Superfund site.

Timely study results from USGS about agricultural and atmospheric contamination affecting Grand Canyon’s fish.

A petition to change the mining regulations to prevent this type of problem in the future.

A petition to create a Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument, which would prevent the development of new uranium mines on the plateaus surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.

On behalf of Sierra Club, Robert Tohe, Sierra Club Organizing Representative in New Mexico, released the following statement:

“Our thoughts are with the families in Colorado and New Mexico who now have to worry about whether their drinking water is clean or their jobs are threatened because of this needless disaster. The Animas River was sadly already contaminated due to the legacy of toxic mining practices. The company that owns this mine has apparently allowed dangerous conditions to fester for years, and the mishandling of clean-up efforts by the EPA have only made a bad situation much worse. As we continue to learn what exactly happened, it’s time that the mine owners be held accountable for creating this toxic mess and we urge the EPA to act quickly to take all the steps necessary to ensure a tragedy like this does not happen again.”

Mining Operations Continue Under Approved Mine Plans on the Arizona Strip

Note from the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Protection Campaign about the following BLM press release: when mine operators decided to commence mining at Pinenut, they found the shaft to be full of water and had to pump out and evaporate millions of gallons of contaminated liquid from the shaft.  Colleagues went to view the mine last year, and discovered a plethora of wildlife tracks going in and out of the evaporating pond… life-giving water is scarce and sacred in this region.  The Aquifer Protection Permit for this mine is just a few pages long, and rests on the “fact” that the region is dry, so there’s no reason to worry about water contamination.  Another sad day in northern Arizona…

Also, the Kanab North Uranium Mine, soon to be “cleaned up”, has had a pile of overburden blowing in the wind for decades.  US Geological Survey scientists couldn’t even find the perimeter of the soil contamination when they evaluated the mine.  Every “reclaimed” uranium mine in this region hosts elevated uranium levels in the soil.  We have no reason to expect anything different at Kanab North, or Pinenut, or Arizona 1.  

For Immediate Release: 05-09-13                      
Contact: Rachel Tueller, Public Affairs Officer
Phone: 435-688-3303 or E-mail: rtueller@blm.gov
 

St. George, Utah—Energy Fuels Incorporated (Energy Fuels) the owner/operator of the Pinenut Mine in Mohave County, Arizona expects to commence production at the Pinenut Mine in late May or early June 2013, and continue for 2 to 3 years under its approved mining plan ofoperations.  The Pinenut Mine is located on federal lands near Grand Canyon National Park that was withdrawn in January 2012 from location and entry of new mining claims for 20 years, subject to valid existing rights.  The withdrawal did not affect mining operations that were approvedat the time of the withdrawal decision or new operations that will occur on valid existing mining claims.  The withdrawal also did not affect other natural resource development in the area, including mineral leasing, geothermal leasing and mineral material sales.

The Pinenut Mine is one of three mines on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management that pre-date the withdrawal, all of which are operated by Energy Fuels.  The Arizona 1 Mine, located in Mohave County has been in production since December 2009, and Energy Fuels expects to begin reclamation toward the end of 2013.  

Energy Fuels expects to commence reclamation at the Kanab North Mine, also located in Mohave County concurrent with production beginning at the Pinenut Mine. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has accepted Energy Fuels’ clean closure plan for the Kanab North Mine.  A final closure report will contain all of the information for ADEQ to make a determination for approval of clean closure for this facility.  Energy Fuels has hired a Radiation Safety Officer to ensure the mine compound and surrounding area will be reclaimed to safe levels of metal concentrations and radioactivity.  In addition, an independent verification will be performed to confirm the post reclamation conditions are safe for the general public and environment.

The Secretary of the Interior made the January 2012 withdrawal decision after engaging numerous cooperating agencies, tribes, counties, and stakeholders, and considering more than 350,000 public comments on the draft environmental impact statement, including input from more than 90 countries. The environmental analysis projected that 11 uranium mines would be developed during the 20-year withdrawal period, including the previously-approved Pinenut, Arizona 1, and Kanab North mines.

The withdrawal decision maintains the pace of hard rock mining in northern Arizona, while giving the Department of the Interior a chance to monitor the impacts of uranium mining in the region.  The U.S. Geological Survey has been working with the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a comprehensive 15-year study plan to collect the information that will be needed to support a future decision on whether to continue the withdrawal beyond the current 20-year period.

 

-BLM-

                                                                                        

The BLM manages more land – 245 million acres — than any other Federal agency.  This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska.  The Bureau, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation.  The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.  The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.

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