Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

New Mining Ban Around Yellowstone Moves Forward

Popular
New Mining Ban Around Yellowstone Moves Forward
Yellowstone National Park. Timothy Woo / Flickr

By Sam Schipani

The federal government is moving forward with a plan to halt new mining claims in the Absaroka Mountains north of Yellowstone National Park. The plan would withdraw 30,370 acres of public lands in Montana's Paradise Valley from new claims for gold, silver and other mineral extraction for a period of 20 years.


The mining withdrawal has been in the works since 2016. After proposals for a pair of gold mines popped up in the Emigrant and Crevice mining districts, residents and local businesses in the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition requested that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management withdraw the area's public lands from mining. In response, the Interior Department announced exploration in the area would be halted pending a two-year review.

After releasing its draft environmental assessment for the mineral withdrawal last Thursday, the U.S. Forest Service announced its support for the 20-year ban on new mining claims in the area in order to protect scenic views, wildlife corridors and recreational opportunities.

The 20-year period is the longest that the Department of the Interior is able to block new mining without congressional action. Montana's Democratic Senator Jon Tester and Republican Representative Greg Gianforte have both introduced legislation to withdraw the lands from mining permanently.

Local residents and businesses intend to continue fighting for permanent protections. A rally hosted by Tester days before the the release of the draft analysis drew 200 people in support of permanently closing off the area to mining.

"The 20-year ban will give us a lot of time to get the permanent legislation passed," said Bryan Wells, owner of Emigrant Creek Cabins and member of the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition. "Gold mines are historically short-lived, and Yellowstone tourism has been on the increase for 71 years straight without hardly a hiccup. You can't beat that kind of dependability for a local economy."

Because the withdrawal only covers public lands, however, it would not impact existing mining claims on private lands in the area. Even with the plan, an estimated 81 acres would be disturbed by existing claims and 4.5 miles of roads built, compared to 130 acres of land and seven miles of roads without the withdrawal.

Mining groups oppose the plan on the grounds that Emigrant Gulch and Crevice Mountain areas are historic mining districts.

"A mineral withdrawal of the magnitude under analysis appears to be a solution in search of a problem," wrote Tammy Johnson, executive director of the Montana Mining Association, in an email to Sierra. "At a time when the United States is becoming more dependent on foreign sources of strategic and critical minerals from countries like China, the U.S. should be opening more lands to mineral entry, not closing them."

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has the final say on whether the ban plan moves forward. Zinke, who has derailed protections for public lands throughout the course of his first year in office, has come out in favor of the plan, which protects land in his home state of Montana.

"I've been fighting to protect the Paradise Valley and Yellowstone since I represented Montana in Congress," Zinke said in a statement Thursday. "I look forward to hearing from the community and seeing how we can work together to protect this area."

The Forest Service will release a final report and recommendation after a public comment period that ends April 29.

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA magazine.

Eating too much black licorice can be toxic. Nat Aggiato / Pixabay

By Bill Sullivan

Black licorice may look and taste like an innocent treat, but this candy has a dark side. On Sept. 23, 2020, it was reported that black licorice was the culprit in the death of a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts. How could this be? Overdosing on licorice sounds more like a twisted tale than a plausible fact.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sustainable t-shirts by Allbirds are made from a new, low-carbon material that uses a mineral extract from discarded snow crab shells. Jerry Buttles / Allbirds

In the age of consumption, sustainability innovations can help shift cultural habits and protect dwindling natural resources. Improvements in source materials, product durability and end-of-life disposal procedures can create consumer products that are better for the Earth throughout their lifecycles. Three recent advancements hope to make a difference.

Read More Show Less

Trending

There are many different CBD oil brands in today's market. But, figuring out which brand is the best and which brand has the strongest oil might feel challenging and confusing. Our simple guide to the strongest CBD oils will point you in the right direction.

Read More Show Less
A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

Financial institutions in New York state will now have to consider the climate-related risks of their planning strategies. Ramy Majouji / WikiMedia Commons

By Brett Wilkins

Regulators in New York state announced Thursday that banks and other financial services companies are expected to plan and prepare for risks posed by the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch