I found three things interesting about this situation. Legally, I think there is a problem if the environmental analysis for a mine fails to say anything about the proximity to or the effects on a national trail and its users.
Bo Lea, president of FoOT, told The Sentinel-Record Jan. 15 that the Ouachita National Recreation Trail is a 223.5-mile premiere hiking and biking trail, and FoOT’s concern was that project’s environmental assessment made “no mention of the Ouachita Trail except for one map that shows a 150-foot buffer between the trail and the mining area. That’s only 50 yards.”
The Forest seems to be assuming that the buffer will fully mitigate any effects, but that has to be disclosed and supported by some analysis.
Politically, this area is in the Congressional district of Bruce Westerman, who has become renowned for proposing anti-environmental riders to Forest Service legislation. At least he is consistent:
“I’ve long supported sustainable mining in the 4th District, provided it benefits local communities and stewards natural resources well,” Westerman said Tuesday in an email. “I look forward to the results of the Quartz Mine’s environmental review, and hope to see it progress in the upcoming year.”
Lastly, this is an area that is promoted for mountain bike use by the Forest Service and organizations that appear to support both hiking and biking. It’s an “epic” biking trail, and it doesn’t go through any wilderness areas.