Biden Cancels Trump With Reversal Of Environmental Policy

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The Biden administration has canceled two mining leases covering areas near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, reversing a move from the Trump administration. As reported by The Washington Post, the Interior Department — as currently led by Biden pick Deb Haaland — has concluded that “the leases to extract copper, nickel and other valuable hardrock minerals in northern Minnesota were improperly renewed under Donald Trump.” Over a million acres of wilderness are in the area, allowing for the Biden administration’s decision to cut off this source of potential pollution to have a far-reaching impact.

Haaland commented on the occasion of the leases getting cancelled that the Interior Department “takes seriously our obligations to steward public lands and waters on behalf of all Americans,” adding: “We must be consistent in how we apply lease terms to ensure that no lessee receives special treatment.” Observers touted the Biden administration’s decision; Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), for instance, called the move “a victory for sound science and protecting a precious and irreplaceable natural resource,” adding: “Some places are simply too special to mine, and it is our obligation to ensure these unique and valuable lands and waters remain intact for generations to come.”

The Post notes that the Trump administration’s prior decision to move forward with the mining leases reversed the Obama administration’s stance; just before the end of Obama’s tenure, the Interior Department in his administration rejected an attempt by a mining company to get permissions renewed for mining copper and nickel in the area. Once the Trump administration took power, it eventually fueled the sought after project by scaling back a planned environmental review of the circumstances. Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes, a legal official at the Interior Department in the Biden administration, concluded that “the Trump administration fell short in its legal obligations by conducting an inadequate environmental analysis and by sidestepping the U.S. Forest Service,” as The Washington Post explains.

This whole thing isn’t the first move that the Biden administration has undertaken to turn back damaging environmental policies from the Trump era. Late last year, the news came out that the administration would be formally proposing a ban on logging and road construction across over half of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, which is the largest temperate rainforest in North America. Such restrictions on development had been in place already, but the Trump administration eliminated them in 2020. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said last November that “[restoring] the Tongass’ roadless protections supports the advancement of economic, ecologic and cultural sustainability in Southeast Alaska in a manner that is guided by local voices.” The Washington Post reported in the middle of last November that the proposal would be “subject to 60 days of public comment before being finalized,” and it’s been a little over 60 days, so the restrictions appear near implementation, if they’re not already.