OSM subsequently reopened the public comment period on the state's request.
Though OSM has never approved the fish and wildlife habitat use, state officials have granted at least 23 permits for mines proposing it as a post-mining land use.
In his comments filed with OSM, Lovett argued that Congress didn't intend to allow rugged Appalachian hills and hollows to be flattened if mine operators didn't plan future economic development projects that needed flat land.
"It is clear that a post-mining land use must be a socially beneficial, well-planned development that uses land in a higher and better way than it was used before mining took place," Lovett wrote.
"Congress did not intend to allow a passive, undeveloped post-mining land use such as fish and wildlife habitat and recreation lands," he wrote. "That use is not socially beneficial.
"It does not require any development. It does not require any public facilities. It is not a higher and better use than that which previously existed.
"The reason the mountaintop removal mining operators and the state are pushing so hard for the approval of 'fish and wildlife habitat and recreation lands' use, even in the current climate, is because it is the easiest and least expensive kind of reclamation to carry out."