Today the BLM and Forest Service, under the Obama Administration, announced protection of Southern Oregon's Rough and Ready Creek, Baldface Creek, North Fork of the Smith River, Hunter Creek, and Pistol River with a 20 year administrative "mineral withdrawal" (aka mining withdrawal).
This has taken years to accomplish after exensive public comments and three public hearings showing overwhelming support of protection of these places. These rivers and creeks are uniquely special and absolutely deserve this protection from large scale mining.
What is an Administrative Mineral Withdrawal?
The General Mining Act of 1872 allows citizens and corporations to prospect and mine our public lands. While this frontier era law has not been updated since its inception, multinational corporations and huge earthmoving machines have largely replaced hand tools and small operators in the intervening decades. Mining our public lands can be devastating and a mineral withdrawal removes (withdraws) certain areas from the establishment of new mining claims. It also requires existing claims to demonstrate that their mining claims contain a deposit of valuable minerals before they can do any mining.
An administrative mineral withdrawal is temporary protection for our public lands that is put in place by the Secretary of Interior. The mineral withdrawal is made permanent when the U.S. Congress passes mineral withdrawal legislation.
In short, an administrative mineral withdrawal protects our public lands from new mining claims for 20 years.
Is This a Big Deal?
Yes! These rivers and creeks are some of the most beautiful and unique in the world. They also provide clean drinking water for Southern Oregon and Northern California communities.
The administrative mineral withdrawal announced today gives our members of Congress 20 years to pass legislation to permanently protect these creeks and rivers.
Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Peter DeFazio and Jared Huffman have introduced the Southwestern Oregon Watershed & Salmon Protection Act which will provide permanent protection for these creeks. We need to get this (or similar) legislation through Congress.
This protection comes from the hard work of many people. If you signed a petition or submitted comments about why these places are special then you were an important part of the process. Thank you!
There were many, many people in the background working hard on the nuts and bolts of the withdrawal. This coalition includes:
Friends of the Kalmiopsis
Native Fish Society
Smith River Alliance
Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center
Soda Mountain Wilderness Council
Western Environmental Law Center
Northwest Rafting Company
The Pew Charitable Trusts
Thank you to the many people with the Forest Service and BLM who have put countless time and effort into gathering information for this mineral withdrawal.
Finally I want to thank Senator Wyden, Senator Merkley, Representative DeFazio, Representative Huffman, and their staff. They are all champions of these places we love.