U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Ray Land Exchange SEIS
About the SEIS
In exchange for the Selected Lands, the BLM would acquire 7,304 acres of Asarco’s private land that the BLM has identified as desirable for public ownership. These lands, identified as the Offered Lands, are considered to have important resource values and include lands within or adjacent to wilderness areas and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, lands containing riparian areas, and lands that serve as habitat for endangered species and other special-category wildlife species, such as the desert tortoise.
Offered Lands Parcel Description
Selected Lands Parcel Description
The existing conditions and foreseeable uses for the Selected Lands vary by parcel. Conditions range from parcels containing existing mining, parcels adjacent to mining, and parcels with no current mining activity. Foreseeable uses for the Selected Lands include expansion of open pit operations, haul roads, leach and rock deposition areas, access roads, storm water facilities, and administrative facilities. Some parcels will be used as buffer areas and contain limited or no mining activity.
Why is the BLM doing an SEIS?
The Ray Land Exchange was challenged by three environmental groups: the Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Land Exchange Project, and the Sierra Club (collectively called CBD) administratively and in federal court, ultimately prevailing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in November 2010. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) “in assuming without explanation that Asarco would perform mining operations on the selected lands in the same manner regardless of the land exchange.” The court recognized that Asarco has the right to conduct mining and related activities under the General Mining Law, based on Asarco’s mining and mill site claims on the Selected Lands. But the court believed that the manner and extent of mining was likely to differ depending on whether the Selected Lands are owned by the United States as public lands subject to the BLM’s surface use regulations at 43 CFR Subpart 3809 or by Asarco as private lands in fee simple, in which case the BLM’s surface use regulations would not apply.
Because the deficiencies in the 1999 FEIS are narrow in scope, the BLM has determined that conducting the analysis using the Supplemental EIS guidelines was the appropriate tool.
What will be included in the SEIS?
The SEIS will supplement the 1999 FEIS by providing a “with and without” comparative analysis found lacking by the Ninth Circuit. This analysis will compare two scenarios of potential environmental impacts on the Selected Lands from mining operations. One scenario analyzes potential impacts that could occur as a result of mining activities on the Selected Lands if they are not exchanged and remain under BLM jurisdiction (i.e., mining occurs with BLM regulations). The other scenario analyzes potential impacts that could occur as a result of mining activities if the Selected Lands are exchanged and become privately owned lands (i.e., mining occurs without BLM regulations).
The SEIS will also address any substantial changes in the land exchange and any significant new circumstances or information that are relevant to analyzing the impacts of the land exchange (see 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(c); BLM NEPA Handbook § 5.3). No new lands have been added to the Ray Land Exchange.
The BLM is beginning the environmental analysis required for the SEIS and plans to publish the Draft SEIS in Fall 2012. See the schedule for the SEIS process.