Commissioner Jim Starr focuses on water at U.S. House hearing

“I’m glad to be back from the land of suits”

County commissioner Jim Starr traveled to Capitol Hill last week to appear before the House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. He testified on Thursday, February 26, to discuss reforming the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 1872.

 

 

During the hearing, Starr told the subcommittee that although “hardrock minerals are valuable natural resources that should be extracted and put to beneficial use,” the law that permits their removal from federal land is “antiquated” and needs revision.
He also said the mechanism that allows for mineral extraction “is not the appropriate mechanism and any new mechanism needs to have sufficient protections from exploration and operations in ‘special areas.’”
Starr said this week, “I focused a fair amount on keeping the water quality and quantity as high as we can, especially given the prospect of global warming,” said Starr.
“We have long recognized that significant natural resources, such as our natural parks, must not be open for location and entry. Before it is too late, it is imperative that we now also recognize the local and national importance of protecting our municipal watersheds,” he told the subcommittee.
The 1872 mining law was signed by the Grant Administration as an effort to settle the West and provide minerals that were vital to the nation’s growth. But as Starr pointed out, today those federal lands could have greater value as something other than mineral resources.
The way in which mineral extraction companies go about getting the public land was also addressed by Starr, who pointed out that the federal government had the ability to lease public lands for mineral exploration as an alternative that “provides the claimholder with title to public land for $5 per acre, the current-day cost of a gallon of milk.”
During his time in Washington, Starr also met with several members and staff members of Colorado’s Senate delegation, including John Salazar, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet.
“It was a really great trip,” Starr said. “But I’m glad to be back from the land of suits.”
To see the full transcript of Starr’s testimony, click here .

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