Are Federal Bans on Mining for the Birds?

miningWith little time left on its clock, the Obama administration is rushing to place millions of acres of federal land off limits to commercial resource extraction. Although Lighthouse subscribers have read about regulatory obstacles to oil and gas development, a recent op-ed by Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II and Strata Research Director Megan E. Hansen emphasizes the harm that federal restrictions impose on the development of minerals and metals that could otherwise be used for making things like smart phones, electric car batteries, and computer memory chips.

“Mineral resources are plentiful within our borders, but the United States imported $41 billion worth of processed mineral materials in 2014 from foreign countries,” Shughart and Hansen write. “The production of rare earth metals, for example, is now dominated by China, even though the United States once was a leading rare earth elements producer. In fact, we have now become 100 percent dependent on imports of 19 key minerals.”

The Department of Interior is trying to create more obstacles. Last fall it proposed withdrawing 10 million acres of land from resource development—an amount equivalent of the size of Yellowstone National Park—ostensibly in order to protect the habitat of the greater sage grouse—a bird species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services says is not at risk of extinction.

“Banning mining on federal lands will weaken Western state economies to protect a species that doesn’t seem to need protecting,” Shughart and Hansen continue. “Claiming that the ban will save the greater sage grouse is an absurdly deceptive justification for regulatory overreach.” (More)