Hiouchi, CA - This past Friday, U.S. Congressmen Peter DeFazio (OR-4) and Jared Huffman (CA-2) gathered with local supporters on the banks of California's Smith River to reiterate their strong support for protecting Southwest Oregon's salmon-studded rivers from the threat of three nickel strip mines proposed for nearby public lands. Rep. DeFazio, as well as Sens. Wyden and Merkley, introduced the Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act in 2015, which would permanently withdraw 101,000 acres of public lands in Southwest Oregon from the Mining Act of 1872. Congressman Huffman joined as one of the bill's co-sponsors because his California constituents living in Crescent City, Hiouchi and Gasquet, CA are downstream of one of the potential mining sites located in the headwaters of the North Fork Smith River.
Friday's gathering under the redwoods was spurred on by the recent announcement from the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to increase the duration of their mineral withdrawal for this area from 5 to 20 years. A 20-year mineral withdrawal is the maximum interim protection possible from the agencies. Securing a mineral withdrawal would prevent new mining claims and require the current nickel mining interests to prove the economic validity of their claims before proceeding -- a challenging task, that’s prevented mining elsewhere. It will also give Congress the time it needs to create permanent protections from mining by passing the Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act.
Our River Stewards Dave Lacey (Hunter Creek), Sunny Bourdon (Smith & Chetco) and James Smith (Hunter Creek) are incredibly grateful to have strong Congressional champions working on behalf of their communities, free-flowing rivers and native fish. Native Fish Society, our stewards, and campaign supporters extend a huge thank you to both Congressman DeFazio and Congressman Huffman for their leadership on this issue and we're so glad they took a moment out of their hectic schedules to enjoy some well deserved time on the river.
How can you help? Stay tuned, in the next week we'll be launching our Action Alert so you can send your support for the 20-year mineral withdrawal into the BLM and Forest Service. Your help is critical for getting these protections over the finish line!
Native Fish Society and our stewards also want to extend our thanks to our campaign partners at the Smith River Alliance and Trout Unlimited who helped host the Congressmen and to local tour business Redwood Rides for handling the float logistics.