Among the conditions for a temporary drilling permit in Montana’s Finley Basin tungsten deposit:

The mules must be fed certified weed-free hay.

An Australian company would like to extract the tungsten in the Finley Basin (where Union Carbide drilled in the 1970s) but such nitpicking rules mean the project is likely not to happen.

Marita Noon has a riveting piece up today on Townhall that shows how frivolous environmental regulations are killing mining jobs in the U.S. The culprit in the Finley Basin is the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which puts 50 million acres in the U.S. off limits to new roads.

The Finley Basin is 200 yards inside this area and therefore the potential developers would have lots of hoops to jump through to mine the tungsten. One is that only mules can be used to transport the heavy mining equipment. I don’t see how this makes the mules gourmets, but apparently it does.

If it weren’t for rules like the ones that will probably kill the Finley Basis project, the economies of mining states would be different.  Noon observes:

Imagine the jobs and new wealth that could be created if mining was encouraged. Senator Settelmeyer says, “It is hard enough for companies to get through the regulatory process and get a permit. On top of that there is frivolous environmental litigation that lengthens the process—cutting off vital resources and delaying jobs.”

It is possible to love nature and want to preserve its beauty without being as doctrinaire as the environmental movement. It should also be possible to recognize that temporary damage to the environment can be repaired.

The Keystone XL pipeline project shows the extreme nature of many activists. The pipeline got an environmental clearance after an exhaustive, 3-year environmental impact analysis. But this wasn’t good enough for environmentalists. Being a powerful component of President Obama’s constituency as he goes into what will be a bruising campaign season, they were able to delay and perhaps permanently block the project.

Next time somebody mentions the unemployment rate think of those mules who are legally prohibited from nibbling on the occasional weed.