Environment and Water
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Typical kinds of environmental problems stemming from AML sites include: contaminated/acidic surface and ground water; and stockpiled waste rock and mill tailing piles. Many affected watersheds are in arid climates in the West, where water is scarce, and the need to improve water quality for human and aquatic resources use is critical. Some western watersheds may be significantly impacted 15 by widespread mercury contamination. In addition to abandoned mine sites, there are abandoned smelter sites where remaining tailings piles from past milling operations continue to impact the environment. Addressing AML impacts is becoming increasingly important due to increased exposure to people and risks of accidents, injuries, and tort claims.
According to the 2000 Census, the West is the fastest growing region of the Nation, and 9 of the 12 fastest-growing States are in the West, where most BLM-managed land is located. Today, more than 63 million people live in the West, and the growth is expected to continue. Over 22 million people live within 25 miles of the public lands. From an AML standpoint, more heretofore remote sites are now in closer proximity to population centers.
Recreational use of public lands
Increased population growth in the West is also reflected in higher demand for outdoor recreation on public lands. Recreation areas, national by-ways, and campground facilities on public lands can be located in proximity to AML sites. Use of Off-Highway Vehicles often transpires at AML sites amid risks of dangerous shafts, and exposure to contaminants in the soil, water and air. Recreational fishing can place anglers in proximity of AML sites, and is impacted by decreased fish population among polluted waters stemming from AML sites, and available fish may pose significant uptake of contaminants when consumed. Events such as Lewis and Clark Trail anniversary activities can expose people to AML hazards.
Threatened and endangered species
Threatened and endangered species may reside in or around AML affected lands and waters. This is especially true for bat species. Adits often provide bat habitat. Thus, remediation of AML sites may require special techniques, such as use of bat gates, at additional cost