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Hastings Cutoff Runs Through Long Canyon

Posted on 30 January 2015 by Howard Copelan



The owner of a potash mine site is calling the approval by the BLM and other federal and state agencies unfair.

“One of the main reasons we were denied in Pilot Valley was because of the California Trail (CHT) – Hastings Cutoff,” wrote Foster Wilson in an e-mail to the High Desert Advocate.

“The Hastings Cutoff crosses the Long Canyon project in Elko County Nevada to the west of Pilot Valley and is designated a high-potential segment, just like at Pilot Valley.

H&R2Nevada BLM did not require any changes/amendments to the Resource Management Plan (RMP) however Utah BLM determined amendments were necessary for the RMP plans covering Pilot Valley and that was impossible because they claimed DoD would have to sign off on any amendments and DoD never responds.

Just a red herring to stop development

Attached is a part of the Long Canyon EIS talking about the trail. Elko BLM said they worked around the trail and they did not need a 10 mile (!) no-go-zone like BLM demanded just over the border!”

Last June the  Bureau of Land Management rejected an appeal by Mesa mining for the company’s proposed potash mine 10 miles north of Nevada/Utah border town.

newtaxadThe BLM cited land management concerns stemming from the California Historic Trail, a 168 year old wagon trail that transects the project. The rejection prohibits any development for at least 10 miles on either side of the trail.

“This restriction imposed on this large area by the BLM is unprecedented, unwarranted and, we believe, unlawful.  The BLM is tasked with finding multiple uses for the public land that they administer, the mandate being the best use of the land for the benefit of the most people;

This decision satisfies a narrowly focused special interest group.” said Foster Wilson, CEO of Mesa.

wrecaquaThe decision by the BLM was not unexpected.

Opposition to the project which would have created at least 40 very long term high paying jobs was spearheaded by the Oregon-California Trails Association which began a letter campaign against the proposed mine because of its proximity to the Hastings Cutoff, the “shortcut” taken by the infamous Donner Party as well as four other wagon trains in the mid 1800’s.

centraphoneThe Oregon-California Trails Association is the nation’s largest and most influential organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of overland emigrant trails and the emigrant experience.

“Mesa claims to have Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, along with Congressman Rob Bishop, leaning on the Bureau of Land Management to authorize the project to “reduce dependence on foreign producers,” “provide economic development,” and jobs, jobs, jobs!” Wrote OCTA Utah member Will Bagley, on the Association’s website this June. “Genesis tells the ancient tale of how Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew. For thousands of years, this “mess of pottage” has represented something worthless that is foolishly traded for an immensely more valuable birthright.

ldaydinnerFor many of us, the playa at Pilot Peak is a national treasure, what the Park Service calls a place that is “fragile, sensitive, rare, irreplaceable, exemplary, unique, and vulnerable to adverse change.” The American past has an almost magical ability to disappear, but beneath the looming majesty of Pilot Peak, silent stretches of the Hastings Cutoff endure. The singular landscape of the Pilot Peak Playa should be a National Monument, not a strip mine.”

Wilson was more than a little taken aback by the vehement and biblical opposition to his modest project.

“I am all for preserving history,” said Foster Williams. “And I think this country has done a pretty good job. The main trail is marked over 2,000 miles across six states. Locally there is an Oregon Trail Interactive Center in Elko. But the Hastings cutoff was used by just four trains and is only note worthy because of the Donner Party.”

Foster Wilson

Foster Wilson

The Donner Party’s claim to infamy came several weeks after they took the Hasting Cutoff when against advice from experts attempted to cross California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains in late fall, got stuck in an early snow storm and resorted to cannibalism to survive the winter.

In the time leading up to the BLM’s decision, Foster said, the OCTA refused any kind of compromise with the proposed mine.

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