NEWS RELEASE | February 23, 2021 Judge rules federal agencies once again violated federal environmental laws in approving mining exploration near Mt. St. Helens.

Judge rules federal agencies once again violated federal environmental laws in approving mining exploration near Mt. St. Helens. 

 A federal court ruled mineral prospecting permits issued by the Bereau of Land Management and the Forest Service violated environmental laws. The decision is a victory for conservation groups who believe that Mount St. Helens is no place for a mine.

NEWS RELEASE | February 23, 2021

Contacts: 

Lucy Brookham

Policy Manager, Cascade Forest Conservancy

801-708-9436 lucy@cascadeforest.org

Thomas Buchele

Co-Director, Earthrise Law Center

503-768-6736 tbuchele@lclark.edu

Portland, Or – Thursday, a federal court ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service violated federal environmental laws by issuing mineral prospecting permits to a Canadian mining company. The permits would allow Ascot Resources to drill 63, 2-3 inch diameter exploratory holes from 23 drilling pads across hundreds of acres of Washington’s Green River Valley adjacent to the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to search for copper, gold, and molybdenum. Environmentalists say mining in the area would cause irreversible impacts to the environment, recreation opportunities, and drinking water. The lawsuit brought by Cascade Forest Conservancy and represented by Earthrise Law Center and Western Mining Action Project is the organization’s third lawsuit seeking to block the prospecting in Southwest Washington. The agencies withdrew their approval of the drilling in 2011 after a lawsuit was filed, and in 2014 the federal agencies’ attempt to approve the drilling was also struck down by the federal court.

The 55-page opinion, published on Thursday, held that the agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when considering recreation impacts. The opinion stated the agencies did not take a hard look at the impacts that 24-7 noise, created by the drill pads, would have on nearby recreators and how the project closures would prevent recreational access to the area. The judge also ruled that the agencies violated NEPA by failing to properly analyze the critical groundwater resources that would be affected by the drilling.

The Cascade Forest Conservancy, formerly the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, has been fighting mining outside of Mount St. Helens in the Green River Valley for over 15 years. Once considered for inclusion in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, parcels in the Green River Valley were eventually purchased by the Forest Service through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF purchase intended to promote recreation and conservation for the area; however, the public lands in question have been under assault from mining challenges since 2005.

The parties will now confer and likely submit additional legal briefs addressing remedy issues. The Court will then rule on the appropriate legal remedy for the federal agencies’ violation of federal law.

“This is a positive step towards preventing mining in this spectacular landscape,” said Lucy Brookham, Policy Manager for Cascade Forest Conservancy. “The Green River Valley is no place for a mine, and we hope the agencies’ decision to permit prospecting in this beautiful place will be vacated following this ruling.”

”Cascade Forest Conservancy has repeatedly asked the federal agencies to fully evaluate and disclose the impacts of the proposed mineral prospecting on outdoor recreation and groundwater resources, and those agencies have now failed to do so twice, said Thomas Buchele, Co-Director of the Earthrise Law Center. “Their failure to fully disclose the adverse impacts to outdoor recreational uses is particularly troubling because both agencies obviously know what those impacts will be but have chosen not to fully disclose them to the public.”

 “Once again, the federal court correctly found that the agencies’ review and approval of this ill-advised project violated federal laws designed to protect water and public resources,” stated Roger Flynn, Director and Managing Attorney of the Western Mining Action Project, a non-profit environmental law center specializing in western mining issues.

“There are, of course, parts of the Court’s opinion that we disagree with, including its interpretation of the Land & Water Conservation Fund,” said Molly Whitney, Executive Director for Cascade Forest Conservancy. “The funds Congress allocated and the Forest Service used for the purchase of these lands exist to provide the public with opportunities to enjoy and recreate on our public lands–the opposite of what an open-pit mine would provide to this landscape. We remain hopeful that the Forest Service will reconsider its consent after it has reevaluated and fully disclosed the impacts to outdoor recreation and groundwater resources from the proposed mineral prospecting.”

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The Cascade Forest Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working to protect and sustain the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and surrounding areas. Founded in 1985 and now with more than 16 thousand members and supporters, the Cascade Forest Conservancy has led the effort to protect the Green River Valley and Mount St. Helens from mining threats for over 15 years. 

Conservation group sues to block volcano-area mineral exploration

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Apr 9, 2019
A conservation group has sued two federal agencies in an attempt to block exploratory drilling for minerals north of Mount St. Helens, saying the activity could damage recreation in the Green River Valley, the Green River itself, wild steelhead populations and the water supply of downstream communities.
 

Monday’s action is the second time the Cascade Forest Conservancy has sued to block exploratory drilling by a Canadian Company, Ascot Resources Ltd. The suit challenges U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service decisions to permit Ascot to drill up to 63 drill holes from 23 drill sites to locate deposits of copper, gold, and molybdenum.
 
The group successfully sued to block the drilling in 2014.
 
Forest Service spokeswoman Sue Ripp said it was not their policy to comment on lawsuits. The BLM had found that the proposed exploratory drilling would present no significant environmental impact within a 900-acre area it would occur.
 
The area is popular for horseback riding, camping and hunting, and, historically, was heavily used for logging and some mining.
 
The federal prospecting permits allow for constant drilling operations, the installation of drilling-related structures and facilities, the reconstruction of 1.69 miles of decommissioned roads, and pumping up to 5,000 gallons of groundwater per day.
 
The permits are for drilling only. Establishing a full-blown mine would need to go through a separate review and permitting process, but conservationists are leery of any action that is a step toward creating a mine.
 
“Mining activities would greatly impact the fantastic backcountry recreation opportunities within the Green River valley,” Nicole Budine, Policy and Campaign Manager for Cascade Forest Conservancy, said in a prepared statement. “Recreationists come here to experience solitude, not the constant noise, dust, and lights associated with drilling. This incredible area should be protected from mining so future generations can enjoy this unique landscape.”

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Group sues to prohibit Mount St. Helens’ drilling

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Two agencies OK’d mining company permit

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian environment and transportation reporter
Published: April 9, 2019, 6:01 AM
A conservation group has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management over the agencies’ decision to allow exploratory drilling in the upper Green River Valley at Goat Mountain, near the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
The BLM in December found mining company Ascot Resources Ltd.’s proposal to do exploratory drilling ahead of mining would present no significant environmental impact. The decision granted the Canadian mining company two hard rock prospecting permits within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
The company’s plans call for drilling up to 63 roadside exploration holes, measuring 2 to 3 inches in diameter, to look for copper, silver, gold and molybdenum on a mining claim in the upper Green River Valley at Goat Mountain. The drilling area is about 12 miles northeast of Mount St. Helens and adjacent to, and extending northeast from, the boundary of the volcanic monument.
In February 2018, the U.S. Forest Service gave its consent to the exploratory mining.
The Cascade Forest Conservancy filed its lawsuit late last week, challenging both permitting decisions.
Read the full article here: https://www.columbian.com/news/2019/apr/09/group-sues-to-prohibit-mount-st-helens-drilling/[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/12″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Daily Chronicle: Researchers, Conservationists Raise Alarm About Proposed Road Through Mount St. Helens Pumice Plain

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RECOVERY: Thirty-Three Active Research Studies Are Taking Place on Land Buried in Ash, Scientists Worry About Effect of Proposed Road

By Alex Brown / The Daily Chronicle / abrown@chronline.com

The Pumice Plain on Mount St. Helens is one of the most unique places on Earth, a 6 square mile landscape that was buried in ash during the mountain’s 1980 eruption, where almost no trace of human influence remains.
For that reason, it’s proved fertile ground for scientists, where researchers of many disciplines have spent the nearly four decades since the eruption literally watching nature run its course. The formation of streams, the return of plants and animals all are the subject of ongoing studies in this singular environment. Currently, 33 active research studies are taking place on the Pumice Plain. 
“It can’t be overstated just how useful having something like this is,” said Dr. Jim Gawel, associate professor at the University of Washington, Tacoma. 
Gawel has been conducting research at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument since 2008, studying how changes in the surrounding landscape affect productivity at Spirit Lake, looking at things like nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. Those changes and their subsequent effects have all been wholly natural — but maybe not for long.
The U.S. Forest Service has proposed building a road through the Pumice Plain, an area where even hikers are directed not to step off the trail. Late last year, the agency released a Finding of No Significant Impact, clearing the project for the next phase of the environmental review process.
The road — which is slated to run just less than three miles — would serve a serious purpose. It’s designed to allow access to the Spirit Lake Tunnel, which was built to help drain the lake after its natural outflow was blocked by debris from the eruption. If the tunnel were to fail, lake levels could rise and breach the debris barrier, causing catastrophic flooding all the way to Interstate 5. 
For decades, transportation to the tunnel has generally been conducted with helicopters, flying in workers to do inspection and maintenance. The proposed road would allow off-road utility vehicles to get to the lake, making access much easier. The project also includes the drilling of core samples to study the composition and stability of the debris blockage.
The decision notice issued by Monument Ranger Rebecca Hoffman noted that 50,000 people live in the projected inundation area of a Spirit Lake flood, and overdue maintenance on the tunnel is already on the order of tens of millions of dollars. Though the document acknowledges the road could affect some of the science taking place on the Pumice Plain, it says that public safety takes precedent.
Though scientists and conservationists acknowledge public safety is important, they’re skeptical that building a road is the urgent matter the Forest Service is making it out to be.“They’re triggering this emergency clause that allows them to fast-track things,” said Matt Little, executive director of the Cascade Forest Conservancy. “We also want to address the safety concerns, but we also don’t think the solution should be literally bulldozed through the Pumice Plain in the most sensitive research area of Mount St. Helens with incomplete review. They haven’t shown us that there’s any emergency at this point.”
Read the full article here: http://www.chronline.com/news/researchers-conservationists-raise-alarm-about-proposed-road-through-mount-st/article_18e147d8-2003-11e9-b5e2-3f911019abc1.html
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Columbian: BLM OKs exploratory mining near Mount St. Helens

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By Andy Matarrese, Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published: December 3, 2018
thumbnail of 12-04 St. Helens mine

The federal Bureau of Land Management said Monday it found proposed exploratory mining northeast of Mount St. Helens would present no significant environmental impact, bringing mining company Ascot USA a step closer to prospecting in the area.
The BLM’s decision would award Ascot two hard rock prospecting permits within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, about 12 miles northeast of Mount St. Helens and adjacent to and extending northeast from the boundary of the national volcanic monument.
Ascot’s plans call for drilling up to 63 roadside exploration holes, measuring 2 to 3 inches in diameter, to look for copper, silver, gold and molybdenum on a mining claim in the upper Green River Valley at Goat Mountain, where its subsurface rights are evenly split with the federal government.
The company first submitted in 2011 two applications for prospecting permits for approximately 900 acres on national forest land in northwestern Skamania County. Since the lands were purchased by or donated to the federal government, such mining is available for prospecting only with a BLM permit and the consent of the U.S. Forest Service.
The Forest Service gave its consent for exploratory mining in February.
Read the full article on The Columbian Website.

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Press Release: Beavers to be Relocated to Gifford Pinchot National Forest..

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CONTACTS: Shiloh Halsey, Conservation Science Director, Cascade Forest Conservancy, cell: 503-258-7774 Matt Little, Executive Director, Cascade Forest Conservancy, cell: 541-678-2322
Beavers to be Relocated to Gifford Pinchot National Forest for First Time in 80 Years Conservation group will use a keystone species to restore degraded waterways
Vancouver, WA – The Cascade Forest Conservancy (CFC) will relocate beavers to key locations within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in order to restore stream function, protect watershed health, and mitigate impacts of climate change.
Beaver populations were significantly reduced during the fur trade era in the early 1800s. Although beaver populations have partially recovered over the past two centuries, many headwater areas within the Cascade Mountains still lack beavers. Without enough beavers and beaver dams to hold water at higher elevations, stream flows become less stable, stream structure becomes more channelized, and stream-side habitats express lower diversity and reduced productivity.
“This project creates a win-win situation for private landowners, wildlife agencies, and our aquatic ecosystems, which are currently being stressed and altered by climate change,” said Matt Little, Executive Director of the CFC. “It is exciting to use natural engineers to gain resilience in the ecosystem.”
Through a generous grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society, CFC and the Cowlitz Indian Tribe will receive trapped nuisance beavers from private lands (that would be otherwise be exterminated) and relocate them to suitable locations in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The Cowlitz Indian Tribe is establishing a temporary holding facility that will house beavers until they are released, and both groups have surveyed over 50 potential relocation sites for suitability. In the best locations, volunteers have already started planting native tree species to establish food for the new arrivals.
Shiloh Halsey, Conservation Science Director for CFC, said, “Once beavers are relocated to suitable sites, we will continue to monitor the landscape to record changes in ecosystem form and function. We expect to see expansion of wetlands, water quality improvements, and increases in stream complexity, with larger and more abundant in-stream pools.”
The Heritage Program of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest recently discovered a map and details of translocation efforts conducted on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in the late 1930s, when it was still named the Columbia National Forest. During those efforts, 87 beavers were relocated onto the National Forest, but there is no solid evidence of any additional translocations occurring after 1938.
In recent years, many wildlife managers, Indian tribes, and environmental agencies in Washington State have already begun to restore beaver into headwater areas that had suitable habitat, but were without beavers. Successful relocation programs in Washington include the Methow Beaver Project and efforts by both the Tulalip Tribes and Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. Return of beaver to those landscapes have all generated positive ecosystem effects in the local watersheds.
The Cascade Forest Conservancy protects and sustains forests, streams, wildlife, and communities in the heart of the Cascades through conservation, education and advocacy.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/12″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION PASSES RESOLUTION

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NWF Passes Resolution Against Mount St. Helens Mine

 
The National Wildlife Federation, a nonprofit conservation organization with over six million members and 51 affiliated organizations, passed a resolution against the proposed Mount St. Helens mine at their 82nd annual meeting in Virginia, June 6-9, 2018. This resolution speaks to the critical importance of the Green River valley to fish, wildlife, and communities, and asks our elected officials to withdraw this area from mining and protect it for the enjoyment of future generations. We thank Conservation Northwest and the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, NWF’s Washington and Oregon affiliates, respectively, for their support making this resolution possible. Resolution text is below and at NWF’s website:
 

National Wildlife Federation June 9, 2018 Resolutions

Resolution 2018-08
WHEREAS, the Methow River headwaters and Green River Valley in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, both of which drain into the Columbia River, are ecologically rich and are at risk of large industrial open-pit copper and gold mining, and attendant development, because both of the regions are subject to mineral entry under the General Mining Act of 1872 and the Green River Valley is subject to mineral leasing under the Mineral Leasing Act for Acquired Lands of 1947; and
WHEREAS, the risk to these watersheds can only be eliminated by withdrawing both areas from mineral entry under the General Mining Act of 1872, and by withdrawing the Green River Valley from the Mineral Leasing Act for Acquired Lands of 1947, and there is significant public support for these withdrawals; and
WHEREAS, the Methow Headwaters is a region in Washington’s North Cascades with immense conservation value, designated as one of fourteen Treasured Landscapes by the National Forest Foundation, containing a major migration corridor for the state’s largest mule deer population, habitat for seven federally protected fish and wildlife species, Critical Habitat for five species, and the highest population density of lynx in the western U.S.; and
WHEREAS, the Green River Valley of Washington’s South Cascades lies in one of the most unique ecosystems in the world, containing old growth forests that escaped the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980 and other areas recovering from the blast, providing habitat at various levels of succession for diverse species and one of the state’s largest elk herds; and
WHEREAS, the cold, clean headwaters of the Methow River are designated Class AA (extraordinary) in the state and are vital to salmon recovery efforts in the upper Columbia basin; and
WHEREAS, the headwaters of the Green River are pristine and the area is a proposed Wild and Scenic River and a Washington state designated Wild Stock Gene Bank for the long term conservation of wild steelhead; and
WHEREAS, the Methow Headwaters is a region with unique and nationally significant trails and recreational resources, bringing more than one million visitors and $150 million annually via the North Cascades Highway into the county economy, 70% of which is tied to tourism; and
WHEREAS, the Green River flows through the treasured Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, with over 500,000 visitors per year, and provides a source of clean drinking water for downstream communities and municipalities; and
WHEREAS, the Methow Headwaters landscape is world-renowned for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, Nordic skiing, mountain biking, climbing, wildlife watching, and horseback riding, and offers two national scenic trails – the Pacific Crest Trail and the Pacific Northwest Trail; and
WHEREAS, the Green River Valley is a backcountry recreational paradise, containing the Green River Horse Camp, which is a launching point for many camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing expeditions along the 22-mile Goat Mountain and Green River loop trails, which travel past diverse habitats and scenic vistas; and
WHEREAS, the Methow Headwaters has had significant public and private investments in protecting this landscape for conservation, recreation, and restoration actions including nearly $100 million for salmon recovery, $125 million for conservation and recreation efforts through the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office, and more than $30 million in private investments for conservation and restoration projects with the local Methow Conservancy; and
WHEREAS, United States Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell from Washington State have introduced S5666, Methow Headwaters Protection Act, to prevent through a process known as mineral withdrawal industrial mining in the Methow Headwaters in the U.S. Senate where it awaits action, and similar legislation for the Green River Valley is being considered for introduction; and
WHEREAS, protecting the Methow Headwaters from industrial mining threats has the support of over 140 local businesses representing outdoor recreation, agriculture, education, hospitality, real estate, health and construction along with bipartisan support from county commissioners, state and local legislators, tribal nations, including the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, the Twisp Town Council, more than 40 nonprofit and conservation organizations from the local to national level, representing overwhelming citizen support; and
WHEREAS, protecting the Green River Valley from industrial mining threats has the support of downstream communities and 30 recreation and conservation groups in the region, as well as tens of thousands of local concerned citizens who have sent in comments opposed to exploratory mining proposals in this valley over the past decade; and
WHEREAS, the Methow Headwaters and the proposed drilling site on Flagg Mountain have been used for millennia and are still in use by the native Methow people for hunting, fishing, food gathering, ritual, spiritual and cultural activities that would be degraded by large scale mining; and
WHEREAS, the Green River Valley and the proposed drilling site near Goat Mountain have been used for millennia and are still in use by the native Cowlitz Tribe for hunting, fishing, food gathering, ritual, spiritual and cultural activities that would be degraded by large scale mining; and
WHEREAS, industrial-scale mining operations require infrastructure and activity such as construction or use of mining and haul roads for heavy machinery traffic, mineral processing plants, toxic tailings piles and settling ponds, power plants and transmission lines, and heavy equipment fueling facilities; and
WHEREAS, some of the lands in the Green River Valley were purchased with funds under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 (LWCF) for recreation and conservation, and mining activities are inconsistent with these purposes, threatening the integrity of other conservation lands protected under LWCF across the country; and
WHEREAS, mineral withdrawal would preserve existing mining rights and land uses, while precluding large-scale industrial or open-pit mining; and
WHEREAS, the National Wildlife Federation has a strong interest in protecting cherished landscapes and wildlife that help define and shape our national character and identity for generations.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation at its annual meeting assembled June 6-9, 2018 in Chantilly, Virginia, supports the withdrawal of lands within the Methow River Headwaters in Okanogan County, Washington, and the Green River Valley in Skamania County, Washington, from the operation of the General Mining Act of 1872 and Mineral Leasing Act for Acquired Lands of 1947, as applicable, and requests the United States Secretary of the Interior and Congress to use their established authority to withdraw such lands from location and entry under the General Mining Act of 1872 and Mineral Leasing Act for Acquired Lands of 1947.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal” color=”#444444″ thickness=”3″][vc_empty_space height=”35px”][vc_empty_space height=”75px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”grid” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” css_animation=””][vc_column][vc_separator type=”normal” color=”#444444″ thickness=”3″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”yes” type=”grid” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” css_animation=”” css=”.vc_custom_1465592094531{background-color: #96d1ae !important;}”][vc_column][vc_row_inner row_type=”row” type=”grid” text_align=”left” css_animation=””][vc_column_inner][vc_empty_space height=”125px”][latest_post_two number_of_columns=”3″ order_by=”date” order=”ASC” display_featured_images=”yes” number_of_posts=”3″][vc_empty_space height=”75px”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row]

MINING AGAIN THREATENS MOUNT ST HELENS AREA

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Mining Again Threatens Mount St Helens Area Wild Fish and Habitat

By Matt Little, Cascade Forest Conservancy
Originally published in The Osprey Newsletter, May 2018
Download a PDF copy of the article by clicking HERE.

Just north of Mount St. Helens lies the beautiful and pristine Green River valley, which is a treasured wild steelhead refuge and a destination for backcountry recreationists. It is also the site of a proposed gold and copper mine, and a battle that has been raging for over a decade.
The headwaters of the Green River lie in a steep and verdant valley in the remote northeastern portion of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and contain one of the world’s unique ecosystems. Following Mount St. Helens’ 1980 eruption, this valley had areas that were scorched by the blast and other areas that were sheltered and where old growth forests survived the volcanic catalysm. This resulting mix of native flora and fauna at various levels of succession created a mosaic of diversity that today supports a diversity species from wildflowers to herds of elk, and enjoyed by recreationists from bird-watchers to anglers.
The Green River flows in and out of the Monument’s borders, snaking its way west through the glacial-carved landscape of Green River valley. Further downstream, it flows into the famous Toutle/Cowlitz River system. From the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery and North Toutle Hatchery down to the Columbia River, this popular stretch provides anglers with abundant opportunities to catch salmon and steelhead. What many anglers don’t know, however, is that above this system flow waters so clean, clear, and productive for wild steelhead that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife designated it in 2014 as one of the state’s first “Wild Stock Gene Banks”, to protect the integrity of the genetic stock. The Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board also identified the Green and North Fork Toutle Rivers as “Primary” waters — their highest designation — for the recovery of fall Chinook and coho salmon, and winter steelhead, in the lower Columbia River Basin. The clean water and habitat values of the Green River, and proximity to the scenic Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, also led the US Forest Service to determine that the Green River is eligible for Wild and Scenic River designation.
The valley is a treasure trove for other backcountry pursuits as well. It is a valuable wildlife corridor for the seasonal migration of a large elk herd, long recognized by the state wildlife agency for its habitat values. It also contains the Norway Pass special permit area for elk, highly coveted by hunters. Outdoor enthusiasts often start their adventures at the Green River Horse Camp to hike, bike, or ride horses along the 22-mile Goat Mountain and Green River loop trails through blast zone and old growth forests, and past beautiful alpine lakes and mountain views.
Enter Ascot Resources Ltd. This Canadian-based mining company has plans to explore for an industrial-scale mine in this valley. However, they are not the first prospectors to the area. In 1891, two German immigrant farmers were on a fishing and hunting expedition and found evidence of precious metals. This set off a mining rush in the area and led to the establishment of the Green River mining district in 1892 (later named the St. Helens mining district) to manage the numerous claims. However, these mining ventures proved to be unprofitable, and by 1926, the three companies that had explored the Green River valley deposits (called Mount Margaret) had failed. The gold rush had ended.
The latest search for industrial-scale gold and copper started in 1969 when Duval Corporation acquired the Mount Margaret mining rights and drilled 150 core samples in the 1970s. Following the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, Duval sold their claims to the Trust for Public Land. For over a decade, there was little interest in mining in the Green River valley until 1993, when Vanderbilt Gold Corp. applied for a mining permit in the area. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concluded that mineral concentrations in the area were too low to be profitable and denied the permit.
In 2004, Idaho General Mines, Inc. (later known as General Moly Inc.) acquired a 50% interest in the Mount Margaret deposit and applied for a hardrock mining lease. The local conservation group, Cascade Forest Conservancy (CFC), then called the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, responded by rallying support from the community. The cities of Longview, Kelso, and Castle Rock, which depended on the Green and Toutle Rivers for their drinking water supplies, all passed resolutions against the mine proposal. During the public comment period for the mining permit’s Environmental Assessment, over 33,000 people expressed their concerns about the proposal. In 2008, the BLM denied the lease.
In March of 2010, the Canadian-based mining company, Ascot Resources Ltd., purchased the mining rights from General Moly Inc. In a very short time, and without an environmental assessment, the Forest Service approved Ascot’s drilling plan. By August the company had drills in the ground taking core samples. CFC requested an injunction and stopped the drilling by the summer of 2011. Ascot Resources quickly submitted a new permit in late 2011, which this time the Forest Service and BLM approved. However, CFC prevailed in 2014 when a federal court invalidated the permits and the parties withdrew their appeals.
Not to be discouraged, Ascot started writing another application in 2015. In January of this year, the Forest Service yet again approved the permit and passed it along to BLM for their review and concurrence. It is likely the agency will concur with the decision very soon, making it final.
An industrial-sized mine in the Green River valley would be catastrophic for fish, wildlife, and recreation. These types of mines often require huge open pits to process the amount of rock and minerals necessary to be profitable. They also require massive containment ponds held back by earthen dams to hold the toxic materials and heavy metals left in the tailings sludge after mining, including copper, lead, cyanide, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic. These “ponds”, are notorious for leaking or failing over time. If one of these is built in the steep Green River valley, which is in a seismically active area in the shadow of an active volcano, the earthen dams are almost guaranteed to fail. In 2014 a tailings dam at British Columbia’s Mount Polley Mine failed, destroying whole salmon rivers with toxic sludge. Nobody wants this to happen to the Green River.
A leak containing even the smallest amount of dissolved copper can disrupt a salmonid’s olfactory senses, and at 2.3–3.0 mg/L it can be lethal. Heavy metals not only impact fish, but they build up in the living tissue of organisms as they travel up the food chain and affect just about every living creature in the ecosystem, including humans. Mercury is notorious for this and is a potent neurotoxin, greatly affecting the nervous system.
Exploratory drilling alone can have significant impacts to fish and recreation along the Green River. Ascot Resources has plans to perform test drilling at 23 drill pads that will create 63 boreholes. The drills use chemical additives during the drilling process and a bentonite-based grout afterwards that can have impacts to groundwater and surface waters. The closest drilling sites are just 150 feet from Green River tributaries and others are approximately 400 feet from the Green River itself. Also, trees will be removed and formerly closed roads will be reconstructed, which will further impact the streams and fish.
Drilling, truck traffic, and other activities will create 24/7 noise throughout the summer into mid-fall, the same time of year that people visit this area for backcountry recreation and solitude. Bow season for elk and deer begins in September and the proposed mining site is the where most backcountry trips begin, since it is the end of the road and it is where the horse camp and trails begin. The fishing experience would certainly be disrupted, as well as the direct impacts to other fish and wildlife from the project itself.
A large coalition of recreation and conservation groups have partnered with the Cascade Forest Conservancy to oppose this mine. The Clark Skamania Flyfishers (CSF), established in 1975, is one of the most vocal opponents of the mine because of potential impacts to the local fishery. In a powerful video about the mine on Cascade Forest Conservancy’s website, CSF’s Steve Jones is documented fly fishing the Green River and talking about the inevitable impacts that mining will have on the 14-16 pound steelhead he loves. Others opposed to the mine include the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, the original owners and managers of this land, and even the Portland-based rock band Modest Mouse, who currently has an ad out against the mine on their main webpage.
All these calls to action have been heard by decision makers, including leaders in Congress. Washington’s Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell is an important ally for mine opponents, especially through her role as Ranking Member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In a 2016 Committee hearing on the Forest Service budget, Senator Cantwell grilled the former Chief of the Forest Service, Thomas Tidwell, on his agency’s insufficient review of this mine and the impacts it will have on the valley.
Ironically, all of the 900 acres currently under consideration for exploratory drilling were once owned by the conservation-focused Trust for Public Land (TPL), who had purchased it from Duval. In 1986, following the creation of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, TPL donated and sold their land and the mining rights to the Forest Service. During the land transfer, TPL wrote that they expected that the mineral rights “would be removed from entry under the General Mining Laws.” Fortunately, some of these lands were also purchased using money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act was established by Congress in 1964 to use money generated from off shore oil and gas leases to acquire lands for conservation and recreation purposes. Since its inception, LWCF has protected over five million acres of conservation and recreation lands across the country. A mine established on these lands would be devastating not only to the Green River valley, but for public lands everywhere.
So what’s next? The Cascade Forest Conservancy and its coalition partners will continue to fight drilling in the Green River valley, including through more litigation if necessary. The coalition hopes for a permanent end to mining in this valley and is asking our leaders in Congress to lead a solution that will preserve the area’s exceptional fish populations, wildlife habitat, and backcountry recreation opportunities. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has strong bipartisan support, and any solution should also preserve the integrity of this law and the public lands it has protected.
The Green River valley is unique, and the fish, wildlife, and communities that depend on it for their livelihoods deserve our long-term support and protection. To learn more about this proposal and see a video of this beautiful landscape, go to https://cascadeforest.org/our-work/mining/. Also, please consider joining the Cascade Forest Conservancy as we work toward the long-term preservation of this treasured watershed.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/12″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Olympian: Mining near Mount St. Helens? Feds approve permit to drill for gold, copper

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February 12, 2018 11:11 AM

Updated February 12, 2018 05:01 PM

 

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The Columbian: Cheers & Jeers – don’t mine near Mount St. Helens

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Vancouver councilor’s selection open, fair; don’t mine near Mount St. Helens

Published: February 10, 2018, 6:03 AM
Jeers: To mining near Mount St. Helens. U.S. Forest Service officials have consented to a proposed mining project adjacent to the national volcanic monument. Approval of permits for mining exploration by Ascot USA Inc. remains up to the Bureau of Land Management, but consent from the Forest Service was necessary for the project to move forward.
While we oppose the project, believing that it would be detrimental to the ecology of the area, the process for approval deserves kudos. Proposals deserve fair consideration rather than an automatic rejection; due process does not mean you always get the result you seek, but that both sides are heard. That being said, we hope the project is rejected in the final assessment.

Full article: http://www.columbian.com/news/2018/feb/10/in-our-view-cheers-jeers-142/

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