WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

Select Page

A bighorn sheep. Photo Credit: Don McCrady

OMYA Mining Public Land Sale – Privatization of public lands

OMYA Mining Public Land Sale

Back in 2005, the Bureau of Land Management found OMYA, Inc., operator of a limestone mine in California’s San Bernardino Mountains, guilty of removing mining waste from its quarry on private lands and dumping it on public lands. BLM has now proposed to reward this behavior by selling OMYA 70 acres of public lands to expand the mine. To add insult to injury, the lands for sale are part of a wildlife linkage corridor that BLM designated in 2016 as an area of critical environmental concern (ACEC) to protect bighorn sheep, golden eagles, desert tortoise, prairie falcons and other species.

Explore all public lands privatization schemes.

OMYA Mining Public Land Sale Location

OMYA Mining Public Land Sale

With the OMYA Mining Public Land Sale, the government would sell part of a wildlife corridor linkage area to a notorious polluter.

Public Lands Explained

Find out what public lands are, who manages them, and what their designations mean from Guardians’ Public Lands Guardian.

Read the blog post


Photo Credit: U.S. Forest Service


OMYA Mining Public Land Sale – The Details

Reward a mining company for dumping waste on public lands? Apparently yes, if you’re the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

In 2005, BLM issued OMYA, Inc., operator of a limestone mine in California’s San Bernardino Mountains, a Notice of Trespass for unauthorized dumping of mining waste on nearly 10 acres of public lands. OMYA was found to have knowingly removed overburden from its quarry on private lands and dumped it on nearby public lands.

Fifteen years later the trespass is still unresolved. Now, instead of making OMYA remove the waste, BLM is proposing to reward their bad behavior by selling OMYA not only the 10 acres on which it dumped the waste, but also 60 additional acres of public lands so that it can expand its mine operations. Rewarding such bad behavior will do nothing to deter similar actions by OMYA or others in the future. Instead, it will set a terrible precedent of rewarding bad actors. Notably, this sale would also violate a promise from former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that the Trump administration would not sell off public lands.

Compounding this terrible precedent, the lands BLM proposes to sell are part of the Granite Mountain Wildlife Linkage Area of Critical Environmental Concern (GMWLA), which BLM designated in 2016 to preserve a wildlife corridor connecting important habitat to the north with the San Bernardino National Forest to the south. The GMWLA supports many species, including desert bighorn sheep; golden eagles; desert tortoise; prairie falcons; and rare plant communities, including Joshua tree woodlands. An isolated and declining herd of desert bighorn, a fully protected species under the California Endangered Species Act, lives in the area of the public lands proposed for sale.

BLM prepared an environmental assessment to evaluate the impacts of the proposed sale and took public comments in December 2018. The assessment was deficient in many respects, including its analysis of impacts to the desert bighorn sheep herd, as well as its discussion of whether BLM has legal authority under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to sell the land to OMYA. The assessment also neglected to consider the real implications of encouraging or rewarding OMYA’s trespass by enabling them to purchase the lands they damaged.

Don’t Miss Out on Public Lands News!

You’re informed about the most dastardly privatization schemes—now, ensure you stay that way! Join Guardians’ email list and we’ll keep you apprised of what’s going on in the world of public lands. 

Sign up for email list

Public Lands Privatization Schemes

Learn more about the public lands at risk across the United States.

Dairy Syncline Mine

(No text in photo slides)

Southeast Idaho

Village at Wolf Creek

(No text in photo slides)

Southwest Colorado

Resolution Copper Mine

(No text in photo slides)

Central Arizona

Ray Mine Expansion

(No text in photo slides)

Central Arizona

How You Can Help

Help protect the magnificent wild places of the West! Be a guardian for public lands by joining the conversation, learning about current issues, and making your voice heard. Together, we’re a powerful force for nature.

Recent Stories From Public Lands

Public Lands Press

On Losing and Winning

Counter Punch | Nov 13, 2020

In a recent phone conversation with a group of friends, we were asked to speak about loss as a sort of cathartic recognition of the feelings of the moment, induced by certain biological, viral, and political upheavals…

Read more >

All Public Lands Op-Eds

National Forest Roads and Wildfire
Counter Punch | Oct 8, 2020

Forest Service slows review of Trump-era livestock directives for public lands

Vail Daily News | Feb 28, 2021

In late 2020, some of the Trump administration’s last-minute land-management efforts included a plan to ease rules on mining, drilling and grazing across millions of acres of Western states. The U.S. Forest Service extended the comment period on the Proposed Directives for Rangeland Management to April 17.

Read more >

All Public Lands In the News