Thursday, May 31, 2012

Proposed Chetco withdrawal wildly popular in Oregon

We wrote earlier that local support for the proposed "withdrawal in aid of legislation" for 5,610 acres of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River was overwhelming. At the Bureau of Land Management's Brookings Oregon October 26th hearing—90 percent favored the measure, with only about 10 percent in opposition. Until now, however, we didn't know just how wildly popular the proposal is with Oregonians, and people across the nation.

Mining on the National Wild and Scenic Illinois River in 2011. These are small dredges operating under the State of Oregon's general 700 PM permit.  Now imagine the impacts of mining 15 miles of the Chetco River with dredges weighing up to one ton, with six mining operations each mining up to 470 cubic yards of streambed per year for 10 years. Rich Nawa photo.
Of the over 11,800 comments received during a 4 month long public comment period, only .05 percent opposed the temporary protection for this beautiful little 44.5 mile long wild and scenic river.  The Chetco, a world-class salmon and steelhead river, was threatened by plans to mine almost half its length for gold. In 2010, it was named one of America's Most Endangered Rivers.

Proposed by the Bureau of Land Management at the request of the Forest Service, the purpose of the temporary mineral withdrawal is to preserve the status quo on the river, while congress considered the fate of legislation. The measure was requested in 2010 by Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Peter DeFazio in a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Interior. The members of Oregon's congressional delegation wanted to prevent the location of new mining claims, even though there were many miles of existing claim on the river outside the Kalmiopsis Wilderness—and require validity determinations on existing claims before mining was approved.

Little did anyone know at the time that this proactive approach on the part of the Obama Administration would result in making the Chetco River Protection Act even more effective at protecting the river from mining and would save the taxpayer at least $379,000. See Claim Forfeiture: Saving a river, saving taxpayer money.