Tester: Zinke’s proposed mining ban near Yellowstone a good first step

Sen. Jon Tester’s push to ban mining outside Yellowstone National Park gained the support Monday of U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who said he would seek to block new gold claims and possibly other mining near the park.

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift told the Associated Press that Zinke is “fully in the corner of protecting the Paradise Valley” outside Yellowstone – something Zinke had told Tester he would consider and possibly support earlier this year.

Zinke also supports a 20-year withdrawal of mining claims, though Tester would like to see that made permanent.

“(Tester) will continue to push his bill – he wants the permanent withdrawal,” Tester spokesperson Dave Kuntz told the Missoula Current on Monday. “His bill was built with a lot of support from folks on the ground. We’ll keep a foot on the peddle and work to get this across the finish line.”

Back in April, Tester announced legislation to ban mining in the Paradise Valley, saying that while resource extraction plays a role in the state’s economy, it wasn’t suited for the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park.

Part of that push looks to continue a temporary mining ban first imposed by former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, something the agency under Zinke is now considering.

The move comes as two companies explore gold mining near the park, including Lucky Minerals near Emigrant and another near Jardine by Crevice Mining Group.

“An administrative withdrawal would be a step in the right direction, but we have no guarantee that the current review will even recommend a withdrawal,” Tester said in a statement Monday. “And even the best-case scenario means a mine could threaten the doorstep to Yellowstone 20 years from now, sticking our kids with a fight they shouldn’t have to fight.”