The proposed New World Mine at the edge of Yellowstone National Park illustrates the irrelevancy of artificially drawn park boundaries, federal land managers say.
The mine, just three miles from Yellowstone's northeastern corner, took center stage at a conference on ecosystem management Saturday in Snowbird.The proposed gold mine shows why public land managers from different agencies need to cooperate on development outside park boundaries, officials said.
"We consider this mine to be one of the largest threats to the park and a real test of ecosystem management," said Yellowstone Superintendent Mike Finley.
Presenters said the definition of ecosystem management is still vague and hard for officials to apply its principles to, especially in difficult cases like the New World Mine.
But Finley called the park a "complex ecological web" that has felt and will feel the effects of activities outside its boundaries. He noted that a creek that runs into the park still contains acid wastes from a mine abandoned in the 1950s.
"In my opinion, (Yellowstone) should not be put at risk for a one-time mineral extraction," he told his colleagues.
While Finley said his agency seems limited by law to reaching beyond park boundaries, a law professor said the National Park Service could build a good case for more authority adjacent to Yel-low-stone.
"Impacts are occurring in the park," said William Lockhart of the University of Utah law school. "The problem is not whether the impact is there; the question is whether we have authority to reach outside the boundary to address the source."
The park already can affect transportation decisions adjacent to Yellowstone and could use the same ability to influence other development, Lockhart said.
The New World Mine has been proposed by Crown Butte Mines Inc., a subsidiary of Canadian mining giant Noranda Minerals. The company plans to build an underground gold mine that would produce 1,200 to 1,800 tons of ore a day. The group already has received a patent on 27 acres of land managed by the U.S. Forest Service.