Residents of Southwest Oregon’s Wild Rivers Coast like their water pure, rivers clean, air fresh and salmon healthy. That was the message about 200 people had for the Forest Service, BLM, and congressional staff Wednesday evening. The crowd showed overwhelming support for the protection of two National Wild and Scenic Rivers and 101,000 acres of National Forest and BLM lands from mining through a proposed land withdrawal. Update – Another count of the auditorium at Gold Beach put the attendance at closer to 300 people.
The withdrawal would temporarily prohibit the filing of new mining claims and require that any operations on existing claims cannot be approved without the claimant showing they had a valid existing right at the time of the withdrawal.
Three potential nickel strip mines are in the early stages of planning. They would be situated on National Forest and BLM-managed lands in watersheds of Rough and Ready Creek, a tributary of the National Wild and Scenic Illinois, and Baldface Creek, a tributary of the National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River. Another would be in the headwaters of Hunter Creek and the Pistol River—both native salmon streams that flow to directly into the Pacific, just south of Gold Beach where the meeting was held.
About sixty of the almost 200 people packing the Curry County Fairgrounds auditorium made a 2 minute statement for the record. All were in support of the proposed withdrawal. Many asked that the withdrawal be for twenty years rather than the proposed five years. Toward the end, when it was clear there wasn’t time for everyone to speak, Hunter Creek resident Dave Lacy asked those supporting the withdrawal to stand up. Everyone got to their feet.
The proposed temporary withdrawal will provide interim protection for this botanically unique, river-rich area from mining while Congress considers making the withdrawal permanent through the Southwest Oregon Salmon and Watershed Protection Act (S. 386 in the Senate and H.R. 682 in the House). The bill was introduced by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Peter DeFazio and Jared Huffman in February. They’ve long sought to protect the area’s spectacular Wild and Scenic Rivers from mining.
To hear from Josephine County, Forest Service and BLM officials, along with congressional staff, will be in Grants Pass on Thursday, September 10th at the Anne Basker Auditorium, 600 N. W 6th Street (by the Josephine County Court House). The hearing will start at 5:00 and go to 8:00 p.m.