Black Pine Mineral Exploration Expansion

 

BURLEY, IDAHO -

The Minidoka Ranger District of the Sawtooth National Forest received a Plan of Operation (Plan) from Pilot Gold (USA) (Pilot) on January 15, 2020 proposing to expand mineral exploration drilling within their current project area at the former Black Pine mine site located in the Black Pine Mountains of Cassia County, Idaho.  The additional mineral exploration drilling is to occur within the same area analyzed under an Environmental Assessment (EA) by the USFS in 2018 and authorized in a final decision notice signed December 12, 2018. 

Pilot has also filed a complete amended Plan (IDI-39132) with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Pocatello Field Office on May 29, 2020, which identified the commercial use of existing access routes as well as proposing access to the former Black Pine (BPMI) production well located on lands administered by the BLM to support mineral exploration activities proposed on the Forest Service lands. Upon completion of a final EA the BLM will decide whether to approve the amended plan as submitted, approve the plan subject to certain conditions to prevent unnecessary and undue degradation of BLM administered lands, or deny the amended Plan.

A supplement to the 2018 Black Pine Exploration EA has been prepared by the US Forest Service, as lead agency, to evaluate and incorporate the additional data necessary to disclose the environmental consequences associated with the mineral exploration proposed in Pilot’s Plan for expanded exploration and evaluates the effects of constructing approximately 15 miles of additional drill access road within the current project area and 154 additional drill pads.  Should all proposed roads and drill sites be constructed, the additional disturbance would be approximately 50.7 acres.  The supplemental EA also evaluates the connected actions associated with BLM amended Plan IDI-39132.

This supplemental EA also provides specifics of a proposed project-specific Forest Plan amendment which would exempt the Black Pine Exploration Project for the area of proposed expansion from meeting the adopted Visual Quality Objectives (VQOs) as displayed on the Forest VQO map.  The scope of this amendment is only for this project, and the scale is only for the area of proposed expansion.  The substantive provisions of the planning rule that are likely to be directly related to the amendment are §219.10(a), Integrated resource management for multiple use, specifically (1) “aesthetic value”, “scenery”, and “viewsheds”, based on the purpose of the standard being amended to exempt the project and (2): Renewable and nonrenewable energy and mineral resources, based on purpose of the project for which the amendment is needed.

The draft supplemental EA and supporting resource analysis are available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57685.  The Responsible Official for the USFS decision to be made is Acting Forest Supervisor, Kirk Flannigan.  A final EA and Opportunity to Object the US Forest Service decision is expected in December 2020.  The Responsible Official for the BLM decision regarding amended Plan IDI-39132 is BLM Pocatello Field Manager, Melissa Warren.  The BLM decision record is expected following the release of the final EA in December 2020.  All comments received in response to this solicitation, including names and addresses of commenters, will be considered part of the public record for this Proposed Action and will be available for public inspection.

Comment Process

This 30-day opportunity for comment applies to the draft EA and the proposed Forest Plan Amendment.  The final EA and draft decision notice prepared by the US Forest Service for the project and project-specific Forest Plan amendment will be subject to the administrative review (Objection) process under 36 CFR 218 Subparts A and B.  All relevant comments received during the public comment period will be considered in the preparation of the final EA.  Individuals and Organizations wishing to be eligible to object must meet the information requirements of 36 CFR 218 Subparts A and B.  It is the responsibility of persons providing comments to submit them by the close of the comment period.  Only those who submit timely and specific written comments during a public comment period established by the responsible official are eligible to file an objection under 36 CFR 218.

Written, facsimile, hand-delivered, and electronic comments concerning this action will be accepted for 30 calendar days following the publication of this notice in the Times News newspaper based in Twin Falls, Idaho.  The publication date of the newspaper of record (Times News) is the exclusive means for calculating the comment period for this analysis.  Those wishing to comment should not rely upon dates or timeframe information provided by any other source.  The regulations prohibit extending the length of the comment period.

Submit written comments to: Acting Sawtooth Forest Supervisor, Kirk Flannigan, Attn: Black Pine Exploration Expansion; 2306 Hiland Avenue, Burley, Idaho 83318; or via FAX at (208) 677-4878.  Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an email message, plain text (.txt) rich text format (.rtf), or Word (.doc) to Comments-intermtn-sawtooth-minidoka@fs.fed.us.  In cases where no identifiable name is attached to a comment, a verification of identity will be required for objection eligibility.  If using an electronic message, a scanned signature is one way to provide verification.  For objection eligibility, each individual or representative from ach entity submitting timely and specific written comments regarding the proposed project must either sign the comments or verify identity upon request.

Further information about this proposal can be obtained from Heidie Torrealday, Project Lead at (208) 731-0180.

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