The U.S. Department of the Interior has withdrawn approximately 3,000 acres of the Chugach National Forest from consideration for mining activities in a move meant to further protect the Russian River ecosystem.
In a Feb. 26 press release, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service said the land had been withdrawn for a period of 20 years at the request of the Chugach National Forest.
The move is meant to protect the Russian River and upper Russian Lake Recreation Corridor from mining activities. The area is a popular recreation area that is heavily used and is considered an extremely important salmon spawning area and brown bear habitat.
Along with an earlier withdrawal of some 1,855 acres, this withdrawal brings the total off limits to mining in the region to 4,853 acres. The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness borders the new withdrawal to the west.
According to the Forest Service press release, there are small limestone deposits within the withdrawn areas, but a mineral examination determined that the limestone was not feasible to mine and therefore the occurrences are not valuable mining deposits.
There are no mining claims within the boundaries of the withdrawal. The land remains open to other public uses. Carol Huber, with the forest service, said the withdrawal effectively removes the territory from claims staking and mining. She said what limestone is there is not very accessible, and the terrain likely would make mining it prohibitively expensive.
"If there were valuable mineral deposits there, we'd be looking at this differently," Huber said. "We're not anti-mining."
Law sets the 20-year period of removal, Huber said. That means the area can be reconsidered for mining in 2023. Things could change by then, she said.
"Nothing is forever," she said.
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