82-4-202. Intent -- policy -- findings. (1) The legislature, mindful of its constitutional obligations under Article II, section 3, and Article IX of the Montana constitution, has enacted The Montana Strip and Underground Mine Reclamation Act. It is the legislature's intent that the requirements of this part provide adequate remedies for the protection of the environmental life support system from degradation and provide adequate remedies to prevent unreasonable depletion and degradation of natural resources.
(2) It is the declared policy of this state and its people to:
(a) maintain and improve the state's clean and healthful environment for present and future generations;
(b) protect its environmental life-support system from degradation;
(c) prevent unreasonable degradation of its natural resources;
(d) restore, enhance, and preserve its scenic, historic, archaeologic, scientific, cultural, and recreational sites;
(e) demand effective reclamation of all lands disturbed by the taking of natural resources and maintain state administration of the reclamation program;
(f) require the legislature to provide for proper administration and enforcement, create adequate remedies, and set effective requirements and standards, especially as to reclamation of disturbed lands, in order to achieve the objectives enumerated in this subsection (2); and
(g) provide for the orderly development of coal resources through strip or underground mining to ensure the wise use of these resources and prevent the failure to conserve coal.
(3) The legislature finds and declares that:
(a) in order to achieve the policy objectives enumerated in subsection (2), promote the health and welfare of the people, control erosion and pollution, protect domestic stock and wildlife, preserve agricultural and recreational productivity, save cultural, historic, and aesthetic values, and ensure a long-range dependable tax base, it is reasonably necessary to require that:
(i) all strip-mining and underground-mining operations be limited to those for which 5-year permits are granted;
(ii) a permit not be issued until the operator presents a comprehensive plan for reclamation and restoration and a coal conservation plan, together with an adequate performance bond, and the plan is approved;
(iii) certain other things must be done, certain remedies must be available, and certain lands because of their unique or unusual characteristics may not be strip-mined or underground-mined under any circumstances; and
(iv) the department be given authority to administer and enforce a reclamation program that complies with Public Law 95-87, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, as amended;
(b) this part is an exercise of the authority granted in the Montana constitution and, in particular, a response to the mandate expressed in Article IX of the constitution and that this part is also an exercise of the general police power to provide for the health and welfare of the people;
(c) coal mining alters the character of soils and overburden materials and that duplication of premining topography, soils, and vegetation composition is not practicable; and
(d) standards for successful reclamation must be well-defined and consistent so that mine operators can reclaim lands disturbed by mining with confidence that the release of performance bonds can be achieved.