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Forest Service OKs Exploration at Woewodski and Bokan Mountain by Helicopter


August 03, 2011

(SitNews) - Washington, D.C. – The Forest Service on Monday approved permits for exploration drilling at a rare earth elements prospect at Bokan Mountain on Prince of Wales Island, and at another mining prospect on Woewodski Island. Because both mining claims are located in the Tongass National Forest and affected by the roadless rule, drilling and other equipment will have to be flown in by helicopter.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said yesterday in a prepared statement, “I remain committed to repealing roadless requirements for the Tongass, but in the interim, I welcome the Forest Service’s efforts to find a compromise that allows responsible development to proceed,” Murkowski said. “The ability to develop our domestic supplies of critical minerals is important both to our national security and to the economy of Alaska.”

Murkowski has repeatedly had to prod the current administration into making timely permitting decisions on projects within the Tongass.

“The administration continues to slow walk permit applications in the Tongass,” Murkowski said. “While these latest permits are a welcome step forward, I remain concerned that as long as the roadless rule remains in place that it will keep dozens of other potential renewable energy and mineral projects from ever being considered.”

Murkowski has had to make similar interventions to jump start the permitting process on the Greens Creek Mine and the Blue Lake and Whitman Lake hydro projects in the Tongass.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) also commented on the USDA’s approval of exploration permits in inventoried roadless areas for the Bokan and Woewodski projects. “While I continue to disagree with the basic premise of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, I appreciate the U.S. Forest Service Alaska Region’s attention to the needs of mining exploration and the important role mining plays in Southeast Alaska’s economy,” said Sen. Begich. “The action by the Forest Service is critical to moving these projects forward and helping to create some badly needed jobs in the region.  In particular, I look forward to learning more about the Bokan project firsthand during my visit later this week.

Begich said, “Unfortunately, the fact that permits for these projects continue to require special review in Washington D.C. underscores the need to re-instate the Tongass exemption to the roadless rule.  Undersecretary Sherman and Chief Tidwell have been receptive to our outreach on behalf of these projects in Southeast Alaska, and I am grateful. However, I think we would all be better served with a little less bureaucracy.”

Regional Administrator Beth Pendelton announced Monday that helicopter-supported exploration drilling can move forward on two mining claims in the Tongass National Forest: Ucore’s Bokan Mountain rare earth prospect on Southeast Prince of Wales Island and a locally owned poly-metallic prospect on Woewodski Island, just north of Prince of Wales Island.

The news comes on the heels of Senator Begich’s request of U.S. Forest Service Chief, Tom Tidwell, to pay attention to the needs of important mining projects in the Tongass.  If developed responsibly, both prospects hold the potential to improve Southeast Alaska’s economy and provide a good source of new jobs.

Edited by Mary Kauffman

Sources of News: 

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich


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