What Do Mining Claims and National Parks Have in Common?

If you know where to go in Death Valley National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias Park and Preserve, Glacier Peak Wilderness, or Bears Ears National Monument, you might come across the remnants of a tramway or a pile of mine tailings or a rusted tank. The artifacts of industrial activity can be startling in the otherwise tranquil natural scene. But there is no mistake. Despite being miles inside a national park, a designated wilderness, or some other conservation area, you can encounter mining claims—they are everywhere. With resource development on public lands once again a matter of national debate, it has become increasingly important to look back and ask: How did protected places and mining get so entangled? One hundred and fifty years ago, Congress established two foundational precedents for our national landscape a mere 10 weeks apart: the Yellowstone National Park Act, setting in motion “America’s best idea,” and the General Mining Act, which opened public lands to mining exploration. Between … Continue reading What Do Mining Claims and National Parks Have in Common?