DeFazio, Wyden, Merkley, Huffman Put U.S. Forest Service on Notice: Will Closely Monitor Review Process on Mining Claims in Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Smith River Watershed

WASHINGTON—Representatives Peter DeFazio (OR-04) and Jared Huffman (CA-02) and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today sent a letter to the United States Forest Service (USFS) urging the agency to regularly advise the lawmakers as they review the validity of a mining claim within the  Southwestern Oregon Mineral Withdrawal Area.

The letter was sent to the new Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Supervisor, Merv George, and the new Regional Forester for the USFS Region 6, Glenn Casamassa.

The lawmakers wrote in the letter, “As you are new to your respective positions, we want to inform you of our long-standing interest in protecting the lands within the withdrawal area…As you are aware, the withdrawn area contains the headwaters of Hunter Creek and Pistol River, as well as sections of the Rough and Ready and Baldface Creeks. It also provides some of the cleanest drinking water in the nation to communities in Southwest Oregon and Northern California, and contains one of the highest concentrations of rare and endemic plants in North America. There is strong community support for the withdrawal by residents, businesses, and local officials.  We ask that you exercise the utmost due diligence as you move forward.”

In 2017, the lawmakers secured a twenty-year ban on new mining projects in the watershed of the National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River in Oregon, the watershed of Rough and Ready Creek (an eligible Wild and Scenic River and tributary to the National Wild and Scenic Illinois and Rogue rivers), as well as 17 miles of the National Wild and Scenic Chetco River.

These rivers are known for their wild salmon and steelhead populations, clean drinking water, and provide vital economic, recreational and natural resources to the area. 

While the withdrawal protects the land from new mining claims, companies with valid existing claims can mine within the protected area. The USFS must rigorously review all existing mining claims to ensure their validity before allowing any mining activity within the area.

The Red Flat Nickel Corporation (RFNC), a foreign-owned mining company that currently holds claims within the withdrawal area, has submitted a proposal to advance one of its mining claims, endangering critical salmon populations and drinking water sources for much of Southwestern Oregon and Northern California.

A PDF version of the letter can be found here.