On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision in the case of Karuk Tribe of California v. United States Forest Service, 681 F.3d 1006 (9th Cir. 2012).  In that case, the Ninth Circuit held that the Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by failing to consult with wildlife agencies prior to approving a Notice of Intent (NOI) for small-scale mining activities on federal mining claims.

Under Forest Service regulations, a person may submit a NOI for small-scale mining activities such as exploration on mining claims.  Miners prefer the NOI process because they may proceed with their operations after 15 days if the Forest Service does not require a Plan of Operations, which are much more detailed and time-consuming than NOIs.  By requiring consultation under the ESA, the Ninth Circuit’s decision effectively removes the time savings associated with NOIs for mining operations in Forest Service areas with listed species or critical habitat.