Why It Matters: There is estimated to be approximately 500,000 abandoned mines across the United States that contribute to water quality impairments in over 100,000 miles of streams. Estimates also indicate that cleaning up these abandoned mines would cost approximately $54 billion. Unfortunately, under current federal law an individual or group cannot touch or attempt to clean up a mine without being held liable for future pollution, even if that individual or group is not responsible for the original pollution, limiting the opportunities to restore these lands and waters. This bipartisan legislation seeks to provide protections to those individuals attempting to clean up abandoned mines.
On August 25, CSF and the nation’s leading hunting, fishing, and other conservation organizations sent a letter to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to encourage a hearing on S. 3571, the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2022.
Led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Senator Martin Heinrich (NM) and CSC Member Senator Jim Risch (ID), the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2022 seeks to provide protections for those individuals, known as Good Samaritans, seeking to restore fish and wildlife habitat around and downstream of abandoned mine sites. Under current federal law, Good Samaritans who seek to conduct a restoration project on an abandoned mine site are legally responsible for the pollution as soon as they touch the mine site, even if they had no prior association or responsibility for the mine itself. As a result, mine sites are often left abandoned, contributing to degraded water quality and negative impacts to fish and wildlife habitat.
This legislation would establish a pilot program to permit up to 15 Good Samaritan abandoned mine cleanup projects. To help ensure that a Good Samaritan project does not further damage fish and wildlife habitat, the project must pose a low risk to the environment and yield improvements in environmental conditions. The bill also prevents a Good Samaritan from conducting any mining activity to ensure that cleanup efforts remain true to the intent of the bill.
CSF will continue to work with Senators Heinrich and Risch and our partners to push the advancement of the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2022.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?