U.S. Forest Service’s destructive path threatens Range | Free Press

Our nation was founded on the principle that our government is of the people, by the people, for the people. In that light, it is time for the people to have their say on the proposed withdrawal of mineral leases on more than one-quarter of a million acres of federal lands in the Rainy River Watershed.

The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management soon will hold a public meeting in Virginia to gather public input on this crucial issue. The hope is local citizens deliver a clear, understandable message: Stop strangling Northeast Minnesota’s economic lifeblood with bureaucratic tape and allow our rich mining heritage to continue evolving on the Iron Range.

The stall tactics and fear-mongering amount to a direct attack on mining in Minnesota and the good people of the Iron Range. The federal government’s proposed withdrawal of leases for mineral exploration and development not only would have a chilling effect on northeastern Minnesota’s economy, but could destroy our local communities to the point of forcing families who have lived and worked here generations to leave — resulting in a barren region of ghost towns.

Equally disturbing is the federal government’s action will severely devalue an education funding program that has been in place since the mid-1800s to support our children’s education.

More than 150 years ago, the federal government set aside land in states — or in Minnesota’s case, when it was still a territory — for the specific purpose of providing revenue for our K-12 public education system.

In Minnesota, minerals management in Northeast Minnesota has historically generated the largest portion of funds that go annually into the state’s school trust fund, with iron ore and taconite mineral leases and mining the largest contributors.

Minnesota has very valuable school trust lands within the…

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