1991 Scorecard Vote
Senator Dale Bumpers (D-AR) offered an amendment to the FY 1992 Interior Appropriations bill (H.R. 2686) to impose a one-year moratorium on the issuance of "patents" to hard rock mining claims on the West's public lands and National Forests. The need for the Bumpers Amendment is significant, and it has passed the House of Representatives twice.
Over 24 million acres of public lands and national forests suffer mining claims established under the 1872 Mining Law. Tens of thousands of additional acres are covered by applications for the "patents" under that archaic statute. If these patents are issued by the government, the public land covered by the mining claims will be conveyed into private ownership for as little as $2.50 an acre. In a 1989 study, the General Accounting Office investigated 20 recently-patented claims and found that the government received $4,000 for public lands worth $48 million. Lands which would have been protected by the Bumpers Amendment are worth hundreds of millions more.
Although the Bumpers Amendment would temporarily halt the giveaway of valuable public lands, it would in no way preclude mining, exploration, or claim location activities. The moratorium on patents is intended to prevent public lands from being conveyed into private ownership while Congress develops more comprehensive reforms of the 1872 Mining Law. Nevertheless, the amendment was vigorously opposed by the mining industry and its Senate allies.
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) moved to table (kill) the Bumpers Amendment, which prohibited the use of funds for one year to process applications for mining patents under the 1872 Mining Act. The Reid motion to table was accepted 47-46 on September 13, 1991. NO is the pro-environment vote. A similar moratorium provision authored by Representative Ralph Regula (R OH-16) was included in the House bill, but died in the conference committee.