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The last two months have provided a renewed spotlight on the Bodie Hills. Hundreds of letters were written to the Mono County Board of Supervisors as well as Congressional representatives, and the Board chamber was packed twice over by locally concerned citizens in February and March. The end result is that there is no change in the status of the Bodie WSA, which means there is plenty of time to get out and explore this unique area.
To recap: this past September, Howard “Buck” McKeon introduced a bill proposing the release of the Bodie WSA, seemingly to promote mining interests. Six days later, in a three-hour meeting in the county seat of Bridgeport (packed with local stakeholders), the Mono County Board of Supervisors took no action to support the resolution, and it died at the end of the last Congressional session. The supervisors were upset by the lack of community input in the legislation, and asked for more information from the mining company
This February they got it—sort of. Cougar Gold gave a presentation to the supervisors and hosted an evening town hall meeting in Bridgeport. Mark Wallace, President of Tigris Financial Group (which controls Electrum Ltd, of which Cougar Gold LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary) failed to disclose any findings from Cougar’s exploration efforts, or any specifics regarding future proposals beyond a demand for WSA release. The supervisors again took no action to support WSA release; once again, the board called for stakeholder involvement in this important public land use issue.
Two weeks later, on March 8, the Board met again to discuss the issue of mining and WSA release. With four members present, they took no action to support the proposal.
No change in WSA status gives all stakeholders time to plan and discuss. And explore: here are more things that haven’t changed about the Bodie Hills – they’re still a great place to hike, hunt, camp, botanize, and recreate; they are still a great place to experience solitude, discover natural and cultural history. Want to get to know the Bodie Hills a little bit better? Look forward this spring and summer to events and outings in the Bodie Hills by various groups in the Eastern Sierra.
Mining interests pose an increasing threat to the wild lands and open spaces of the Bodie Hills. On Tuesday, February 15, 2011, the Mono County Supervisors will hear a presentation from mining exploration company Cougar Gold on proposed mineral exploration and mining operations in the Bodie Hills. Please join Friends of the Inyo in voicing your concern for the long-term health of the Bodie Hills.
Please act now:
* Email a letter to the Mono County Board of Supervisors before Tuesday, February 15: Lynda Roberts, County Clerk/Recorder, firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell the Supervisors you want the Bodie Hills to stay protected. Cougar Gold has to follow the rules on our public lands, and there are important issues to consider beyond the lure of gold.
* Copy your letter via email and U.S. Mail to our Congressional delegation, in whose hands the fate of the Bodie Hills ultimate resides: Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and Congressman Buck McKeon (addresses are on their websites).
* If you are a Mono or Inyo County resident or are in the area, attend the Board of Supervisors meeting in Bridgeport on Tuesday February 15, to urge the supervisors not to support WSA release and to support permanent protection of the Bodie Hills. Plan on arriving at the supervisors' chambers by 1 p.m.; contact Stacy Corless for carpool information.
* If you live in Mono County, please also call and email your supervisor:
Larry Johnston (District 1, Mammoth): (760) 914-0826
Hap Hazard (District 2, Crowley, Sunny Slopes, Swall, Tri-Valley): (760) 935-4999
Vikki Bauer (District 3, Mammoth Knolls, June Lake): (760) 648-7831
Tim Hansen (District 4, Bridgeport, Lee Vining, Walker/Coleville): (760) 937-3290
Byng Hunt (District 5, Old Mammoth): (760) 914-0469
On September 15, 2010, Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon introduced the “Mono County Economic Development Act of 2010,” H.R., 6129. The bill proposes to release the Bodie Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in the Bodie Hills from protections it is currently afforded by Congress. (Go here for an explanation of WSAs) Release of the WSA will facilitate gold mining by Cougar Gold LLC; Cougar Gold is a subsidiary of Electrum, a large mining corporation with operations worldwide. If enacted, the legislation would open up the Bodie WSA to damaging mining and related development. The outstanding natural values of this WSA would be irreversibly harmed by development of a gold mine. Important tributaries to the Walker River watershed could be poisoned by toxic leakage, wildlife habitat for species including the Greater Sage Grouse and pronghorn antelope would be adversely affected, important cultural resources could be damaged, recreational opportunities would be compromised, and opportunities to secure permanent protection of this important ecosystem would be lost.
Mining in the Bodie Hills
The Bodie Hills have seen mining exploration since gold was first discovered in California in 1849. Bodie State Historic Park, a popular tourist destination located in the center of the Bodie Hills, is one of the best examples of a boom-bust mining economy in the country. Electrum’s current interest is at the Paramount mine site, an area of past mineral exploration activity within the Bodie WSA. There are 432 active claims located throughout the WSA, with the vast majority of them owned by Electrum. For more information on Electrum’s (Cougar Gold’s) specific interest in the Paramount area, see http://www.paramountinfo.net/faq.html.
Electrum (parent of local mining subsidiary Cougar Gold) is a large, privately-owned mining company with interests in gold mining throughout the world. Electrum is owned by Tigris Financial. The Chairman and founder of these companies, Thomas Kaplan is a billionaire venture capitalist. For an interesting article on Electrum and Mr. Kaplan, go to http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38883209/
What You Can Do
Please join us in our efforts to prevent mining from forever scarring the unique and beautiful landscape of the Bodie Hills. Write Congressman McKeon and tell him you oppose the legislation. Please also write your Senators today and ask them to oppose a Senate companion bill to H.R. 6129, if introduced, or any efforts to pass the legislation during a “lame duck” session of Congress after the November elections.
The Bodie Hills are threatened by hardrock mining. One area in particular, the Bodie WSA in the northeastern Bodie Hills, has been and is the subject of extensive mining interest. Three mineral exploration proposals in the Bodie WSA have been defeated in the past 20 years. Currently, Electrum Ltd., the world’s largest mineral exploration company, is pursuing exploration in the historical Paramount mine area of the Bodie WSA. The company holds mining claims throughout the WSA. Mining in this region would irrevocably destroy the wild heart of the Bodie Hills landscape and threaten wildlife, water quality and other qualities that make the region so special.
Even though mining companies often promise jobs to surrounding communities, the long-term costs are many. Mining not only harms watersheds and wildlife, it can create unforeseen development pressures and impacts on local communities. Once a mine has lived out its life, these same communities often experience the boom-bust cycle common to mining-dominated economies. We believe there may be alternative options for rural communities that provide long-term economic sustainability and do not irreversibly harm the natural environment.