DeFazio, Huffman, Wyden, Merkley Praise Temporary Ban on Mining Projects in Southwest Oregon Watershed Protection Area Covered By Their Bills in House and Senate
WASHINGTON, DC – Seeking to protect a celebrated collection of world-class salmon and steelhead rivers, U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio (OR-4) and Jared Huffman (CA-2), as well as Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), applauded the temporary ban on new mining projects in an area covered by a bill the Congressmen and Senators introduced, the Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act.
The temporary segregation measure will preserve the status quo and protect the public’s interest.
“A month ago I stood on a rocky ledge high above Rough and Ready Creek’s great sweeping bends talking to local residents about the need to protect this beautiful and wild space,” said Congressman DeFazio. “The withdrawal of any new mining claims in this area will protect biologically unique natural spaces in my district, as well as support Oregon’s salmon population and safeguard safe drinking water sources for thousands of families in the area.”
"Protecting Northern California's spectacular wild and scenic Smith River, the key source of drinking water for many communities and a stronghold for salmon and steelhead, is the only responsible thing to do”, said Congressman Huffman. “Keeping new mining activities out of the Smith and its tributaries has been an important priority for me, and I have been glad to have such a partner in my friend Peter DeFazio of Oregon, whose district shares the watershed. I am also pleased that the administration is acting on our recommendation to prohibit potentially hazardous mining in this sensitive watershed."
“I am pleased the Bureau of Land Management has agreed to our request to put the mineral withdrawal into the Federal Register,’’ Senator Wyden said. “That decision ensures there will be a robust process for public input that provides the best path forward to a goal all Oregonians share – ensuring that our state’s remarkable rivers retain their critical role in salmon protection.”
“Protecting Oregon’s most endangered rivers and preserving our treasured natural areas are important to the health of both our environment and our recreation economy,” said Senator Merkley. “The action by the BLM gets us a step closer to protecting some of the most ecologically sensitive rivers in Oregon from destructive mining practices. Now it’s time for Congress to step up and pass the legislation needed to make this protection permanent.”
The Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 682 in the House of Representatives and S. 346 in the Senate) would help protect pristine and unique natural areas in Southwestern Oregon from new mining claims. The areas protected include the watershed of the National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River in Oregon, the watershed of Rough and Ready Creek (an eligible Wild and Scenic River and tributary to the National Wild and Scenic Illinois and Rogue rivers), as well as 17 miles of the National Wild and Scenic Chetco River.
These rivers are known for their wild salmon and steelhead populations, and provide vital economic, recreational and natural resources to the area.
Also protected from mining would be the headwaters of Hunter Creek and the Pistol River—two prized native salmon and steelhead rivers that flow directly into the Pacific Ocean along the spectacular Wild Rivers Coast of Southern Oregon and Northern California.
The legislation introduced by Wyden, Merkley, DeFazio and Huffman would prohibit new mining claims in the three areas and will require current claims to meet a rigorous validation process before mining is allowed to proceed.
Both the legislation and the proposed temporary ban on new mining claims are subject to “valid existing rights,” protecting mining claims that are already in place.
# # #