Back to Publications

Wildlife and Mining Operations: Mutually Compatible or Irreconcilable Differences?

James E. Good and Patrick G. Mitchell, Proceedings of 37th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1991)

The first significant national wildlife laws, the Lacey Act1 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA),2 were enacted [7-4] early in this century. In contrast, it is only within the last decade that there has been a new gold rush in the western United States, largely based on cyanide processes. Some of these projects have caused significant wildlife impacts resulting in expensive mitigation measures under MBTA and other wildlife laws.

Beginning about two decades ago, additional wildlife protection laws were enacted. In some cases, these laws have created more focused regional impacts on mines, such as the recent listing under state and federal endangered species acts of several species in the forests of the Northwest and deserts of the Southwest. This is in contrast with the broader geographic impacts of MBTA, given the migratory nature of the species covered. For both new mines seeking permits, and for ongoing operations, wildlife issues are becoming increasingly important as state and federal regulators insist on more stringent mitigation measures and enhance their enforcement activities under wildlife protection laws.

This paper will discuss wildlife, and not fish or fisheries, although many of these laws benefit both fish and wildlife.3 The paper will emphasize federal and California wildlife requirements, with less detailed references to those of other st