By Jimmy Lovrien, Duluth News Tribune
A group of environmentalists and an Indigenous band sued federal agencies for approving a land swap with PolyMet.
The company traded 6,900 acres of its land in 2018 for 6,500 acres U.S. Forest Service land, where it plans to build an open-pit copper-nickel mine.
A coalition led the Center for Biological Diversity argued that the Forest Service relied on a flawed U.S. biological opinion in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Fish and Wildlife Service stated that the land swap would not affect the Canada lynx which is a threatened species under Section 83 of the Endangered Species Act.
The complaint named the U.S Army Corps of engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Forest Service.
Fink said that “By the time Fink prepared the biologic opinion, the whitenose syndrome had not yet made its way into Minnesota.” “Numbers really have plummeted in the time since then.”
The Center for Biological Diversity was represented by Save Lake Superior Association. Save our Sky Blue Waters, Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest, Save our Sky Blue Waters and Duluth for Clean Water were also part of the lawsuit.
Separately, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The band stated that potential pollution from this project would compromise its treaty right to hunt, fish, gather throughout the area it ceded in 1854 to the federal government.
According to the band, the land was acquired by the U.S. in 1935 under the Weeks Act. This was intended to protect the headwaters the St. Louis River.
The band stated that the Weeks Act only allows the Forest Service to exchange Federal Land if it is ‘chiefly valued’ for the purpose’regulation the flow of navigable streams and for the production timber.
The band asked for a court declaration that the land exchanged was in violation of federal law. They also requested the court to “vacate the Forest Services approvals of Land Exchange and Land Exchange itself and any related regulatory real estate transactions associated with them.”
Bruce Richardson, a spokesperson from PolyMet, stated that they were reviewing the complaints, and intend to participate in the lawsuits.
PolyMet is developing a plan for an open-pit mining operation, tailings basin, and processing plant near Babbitt and Hoyt lakes. Although the mine would be the first in Minnesota, a number permit applications continue to face legal challenges.
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