Protecting the clean drinking water and wild rivers of the Kalmiopsis – Wild Rivers Coast regions
Three proposed nickel strip mines—all located in southwest Oregon in the Kalmiopsis – Wild Rivers Coast regions— have mobilized a diverse and determined opposition to the mines in this remote and rugged corner of Oregon and California. The area is famed for its beautiful rivers, their exceptionally clean, clear waters and wild salmon and steelhead runs.
Permanent and interim protection from mining
Under the 1872 Mining Law, mining is treated as the highest and best use of America’s National Forests and Public Lands in the West. The Forest Service and BLM’s position is that can’t say no to mining—even by foreign owned corporations—unless an area is formally closed to operation of the antiquated law—known as a mineral withdrawal.
So it’s no surprise that protection efforts have focused on two proposals to close 101,000 acres of National Forest and BLM lands to the location of new mining claims and to mining, subject to valid existing rights. Legislation has been introduced in Congress and an interim administrative withdrawal is under consideration by the Secretary of Interior. Learn more about each withdrawal effort:
Outstanding Resource Waters
The increased focus on the remarkable rivers and wildlands of this rugged and remote corner of the two states, is also leading to other protection efforts. These include a petition to the State of Oregon to designate the North Fork Smith River, its tributaries and associated wetlands as Outstanding Resource Waters.
The genesis of this protection effort was a letter submitted by fourteen fishing, whitewater recreation and river conservation organizations
Smith River Watershed Protection Resolution SJR3
Sponsored by California Senator Mike McGuire, the Smith River Watershed Protection Resolution asks Congress and President Obama to provide protection for the North Fork Smith River in Oregon similar to the protection given the river in California under the Smith River National Recreation Area Act.
We are united by our rivers
The Kalmiopsis and Wild Rivers Coast regions are home to some of the most beautiful National Wild and Scenic Rivers in the nation—the Smith, Illinois, Chetco, Elk and Rogue, plus smaller streams like the Pistol and Winchuck and Hunter Creek. These rivers, and the wild salmon and steelhead they nourish, cross political and jurisdictional boundaries. They are the tie that binds us and the lifeblood of growing, local clean water/recreation-based economies.
New York Times | Mines pollute drinking water and rivers
In an August 13, 2015 editorial, the New York Times writes that the legacy of the 1872 Mining Law is “a battered landscape of abandoned mines and poisoned streams.” Two recent disastrous spills of toxic mine waste into waterways reminds us nowhere downstream of a mine is safe.
One, at the modern Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia, made news around the world last August. This August in Colorado, rivers that provide drinking water to downstream communities in three states were polluted by the accidental spill of toxic waste from the closed Gold King Mine into Cement Creek. In it’s editorial the New York Times wrote:
The spill of more than three million gallons has poisoned over 100 miles of the Animas River with toxic wastes, turning the river a bright yellow-orange and threatening communities in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and the Navajo Nation that draw water from the river and its tributaries.
These are just the most visible accidents. It’s no secret mines pollute. Clearly our laws and regulations aren’t adequate to keep our drinking water safe from mine pollution. Read Polluting the Future: How mining companies are polluting our nation’s waters in perpetuity.
In the news | disastrous mine spills
- Residents still drinking bottled water one month after Mount Polley Mine breach
- Residents calling it an environmental disaster: tailings pond breach at Mount Polley Mine near Likely, B.C.
- When our river turned orange: The Animas River spill – High Country News
- The Animas River spill and the myth of mine safety – Los Angeles Time Guest Opinion
- The real culprit in the Animas River spill – CNN Guest Opinion
- As mine spill reaches ocean, its catastrophic extent becomes clear – L.A. Times
- A Disaster Prompted by Economic Activity – Slate (this is a stunning photo essay of the mine disaster that occurred in Brazil in late 2015)
Aerial view of sSee the Slate photo essay
The water we drink and the air we breath
While the at-risk National Forest and BLM managed lands have world-class values and deserve national attention, to us they’re our beloved backyard.
As local people, we live with the threat that the water we drink, the air we breath, where we swim and recreate—even our homes and the quiet communities where we live—could be polluted or changed forever. This is what drives our motivation to permanently protect this amazing place from polluting mines.
We care deeply for this incredible wild corner of Southwest Oregon and its beautiful one-of-a-kind rivers, and we hope you’ll help us in our protection efforts. See how you can help on the Take Action page.