The Trump administration has decided to cancel an Obama-era environmental review on how blocking hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Minnesota from mining would impact the surrounding wilderness, The Washington Post reported Friday.
The review has been downgraded to an assessment, a less demanding level of review.
The study was ordered during the final days of the Obama administration, as the Interior Department started a two-year ban on mineral extraction in the 230,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in Minnesota.
Interior officials had also announced a plan to determine whether a 20-year ban on mining in the area should be implemented.
However, the decision to cancel the more thorough review comes a month after President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE’s Interior Department announced it would renew mining licenses for a major Chilean mining company in the area next to the forest land.
Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeWatchdog: Trump official boosted former employer in Interior committee membership Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE had met last year with supporters of Twin Metals Minnesota, a branch of the Chilean mining company.
A spokesperson for the Forest Service defended the move in a statement obtained by The Hill.
“This decision lives up to the USDA Forest Service’s commitment to conduct a thorough environmental analysis of the Rainy River watershed, within the two year period, that relies on sound science and fully engages the public," the spokesperson said.
"Completing an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act accomplishes these goals and was informed by more than 90,000 comments we received from citizens.”
The Interior Department’s plan to cancel the review was ripped by Rep. Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumFunding fight imperils National Guard ops Overnight Defense: Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld dies at 88 | Trump calls on Milley to resign | House subpanel advances Pentagon spending bill House subcommittee advances 6B Pentagon spending bill MORE (D-Minn.), who is among Democrats who fear mining could pollute water sources in the region.
“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke cares more about helping mining conglomerates than about protecting the [Boundary Waters Canoe Area],” McCollum said in a statement to the Post. “This decision is yet another part of the Trump agenda to turn our public lands and natural treasures into industrial wastelands for private profit.”
Updated: 4:04 p.m.