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ELKO – The American Exploration & Mining Association has joined in the fight over federal land use plans and sage-grouse.

The group filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to overturn the Sage-Grouse Great Basin and Rocky Mountain Records of Decision and underlying land use plan amendments in seven western states. The lawsuit is against the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and several federal employees.

AEMA becomes the latest to challenge the plans following lawsuits lodged by the states of Idaho, Utah, nine Nevada counties, the Wyoming Coalition of Local Governments, ranchers, miners and various industry groups.

Elko and Eureka counties, a few mining companies, and the Nevada Attorney General were among the first groups to file.

“The illegal, draconian land use restrictions and mineral withdrawals have restricted multiple-use and economic access to millions of acres of federal land across 10 western states,” AEMA stated.

“Internal government documents have shown what AEMA has long known to be true, that politics pushed this pre-determined policy, completely disregarding actual scientific findings and statutory authorities.” said Laura Skaer, AEMA executive director. “Secretary (Sally) Jewell and the federal administration have to explain why the BLM ignored its own staff’s advice in favor of a reverse-engineered process to lock out the public from federal lands.”

Mountain States Legal Foundation is representing AEMA. The complaint is posted at www.miningamerica.org.

“These land use restrictions are a blatant overreach by the BLM and a thinly veiled attempt to impose a top-down policy completely disregarding states’ efforts, statutory requirements and public involvement,” Skaer said. “The restrictions have a devastating economic impact on the economies of western states and the ability of our nation to produce the strategic and critical minerals required for national defense and economic prosperity.”

The Interior Department has stated it cannot respond to pending litigation, but provided this statement to the Free Press in regard to the allegations:

“We cannot comment on pending litigation however the BLM and the USFS plans reflect years of collaborative work among federal, state and local partners to develop a comprehensive, landscape-scale, science-based, collaborative approach to conserve the sage-grouse and support sustainable development and this includes many conversations with state representatives in developing the plans.”

“The restrictions have a devastating economic impact on the economies of western states and the ability of our nation to produce the strategic and critical minerals required for national defense and economic prosperity.” — Laura Skaer, AEMA executive director

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