DeFazio, Wyden, Merkley Blast Efforts to Overturn Protections for Critical Watershed

WASHINGTON—Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke decrying House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop’s efforts to overturn the Southwestern Oregon Mineral Withdrawal.

“The prohibition on mining on the Smith River and the headwaters of Hunter Creek and Pistol River has broad, overwhelming support from thousands of residents of southwest Oregon, local governments, businesses and community leaders,” said Representative Peter DeFazio. “Not only has this withdrawal been discussed, debated and endorsed by the surrounding communities and supported by federal agencies, it has undergone a rigorous review process and has been repeatedly upheld. Chairman Bishop ought to end his ridiculous crusade against our public lands and respect the will of Southwest Oregon.”

“Oregonians have been loud and clear on this issue. They want this unique and pristine area protected from mining. The safety of the drinking water in these communities depends on it. I will not stand by and allow their voices to be drowned out, nor allow the public process that led to the withdrawal be dismissed,” said Senator Ron Wyden. “Misguided efforts to overturn these protections must be rejected.”

“Mining in this area would pose an unacceptable threat to drinking water and fish runs,” Senator Jeff Merkley said. “The public process overwhelmingly favored protection for these waters, and our delegation has fought to ensure Oregonians’ wishes are honored. We can’t—and won’t—allow these pristine Southern Oregon treasures to be lost.”

Rep. DeFazio and Senators Wyden and Merkley have repeatedly introduced the Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act to protect this iconic area, knows as “America’s Wild Rivers Coast.”

Chairman Bishop has been a frequent opponent of the Southwestern Oregon Mineral Withdrawal. He has previously used the area as an example of a mining ban that should be rescinded, as he did in a 2017 letter to Secretary Zinke and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

To view a PDF version of Representative DeFazio and Senator Wyden and Merkley’s letter to Secretary Zinke, click here