This week, the Obama Administration took strong administrative action to protect an area in southwest Oregon’s Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest with the highest concentration of designated Wild Rivers in the contiguous U.S. The action safeguards the area’s wild salmon and steelhead habitat, and preserves a mecca for aquatic recreationalists such as paddlers, boaters, and fishermen, for 20 years.
The Secretary of Interior – supported by the Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management – published a public land order on Friday withdrawing the lands from mineral entry for the next 20 years. Spurred by the area’s natural beauty and threats from mineral development, a broad coalition of conservationists and recreational users worked together for more than two decades to protect the Wild Rivers area.
Developers had proposed a 100,000-acre nickel strip mine in the newly protected Kalmiopsis Wild Rivers area, an idea unconscionable to the public: 99.9 percent of the 45,000 public comments in response to the mining proposal supported keeping these minerals in the ground. The proposed mine would have included lands containing Rough and Ready Creek (headwaters of the Illinois River), Baldface Creek (headwaters of the Smith River), and the headwaters of Hunter Creek and the Pistol River. The mineral withdrawal announced today makes the area off-limits to industrial mining activities that foul water quality and wildlife habitat, and that are inconsistent with recreational uses of these waterways
“One visit to this area is all it takes to win a person’s support for protecting these truly spectacular waterways,” said Susan Jane Brown, Wildlands and Wildlife program director at the Western Environmental Law Center. “It’s lovely that the administration listened to the strong public support for these protections, much of which comes from the local communities that surround this amazing area. Twenty years of protection is a good start, and we plan on seeking permanent protection for this jewel of the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest.”
Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, and California Congressman Jared Huffman have been strong supporters of the mineral withdrawal effort that affects both Oregon and California, and have been instrumental in securing protections for Rough and Ready Creek, Baldface Creek, Hunter Creek, and the Pistol River. Said Brown, “We are also thankful to the congressional delegations for pushing this effort across the finish line, and look forward to working with them to enact the Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act, which will permanently protect these fabulous waterways for future generations.”
A copy of the public land order is available here.
Read more about WELC’s work to protect this special area here.