South Pass National Historic Landmark - Wyoming
Centuries of history come together in this part of the Northern Rockies: prehistoric artifacts, grounds sacred to Native Americans and land once crossed by the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails. The area has been designated a National Historic Landmark, but none of its historic or cultural value makes much difference to the 1872 Mining Law.
Today, according to the National Park Service, the area is facing development pressures. Plans for new gold exporation in the area have been processed by the Bureau of Land Management and additional claims were staked in 2007. The Park Service notes that new mineral discoveries "could result in applications within the National Historic Landmark."
Under the 1872 Mining Law, places with special environmental, recreational, cultural or historic designations are not necessarily off limits to mining. It took a 1976 law to put an end to new claimstaking in national parks, for example, and some parks still hold active operations, patented claims and abandoned mines. Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964 but allowed the establishment of new mining rights within wilderness areas for nearly 20 years longer.
The 1872 Mining Law still allows new claimstaking in national forest roadless areas, on Native American sacred sites, on designated national historic landmarks and in other areas that have been deemed worthy of protection.
- National Park Service, National Historic Landmarks Program, "South Pass," undated.
- Farquhar, Brodie, "Gold mining proposed in historic South Pass area," High Country News, May 16, 2005.