Today, the Interior Department announced its approval of a mineral withdrawal for 17 miles of a world-class salmon and steelhead river in southwest Oregon. Authorized by Public Land Order #7819, the mineral withdrawal protects 5,610 acres of National Forest land along the Wild and Scenic Chetco River from mining for five years, while Congress considers permanent protection for the river in the Chetco River Protection Act and the Oregon Treasures Act.
“The Wild and Scenic Chetco River is renowned for its singular beauty, recreational opportunities, and epic salmon and steelhead fishing,” said Barbara Ullian of Friends of the Kalmiopsis. “We’re thrilled by the Interior’s decision to approve the withdrawal and want to thank the Forest Service, the Chetco’s congressional champions and the local, regional and national organizations who supported it.”
“The Chetco is a river-lover's dream come true. Local fishing and guiding industries depend on its clean, clear water and it is a spectacular recreation destination,” said Forrest English of Rogue Riverkeeper. “Protecting gems like the Chetco and nearby Rough & Ready and Baldface Creeks from mining is vital to Oregon’s Wild Rivers coast.”
The mineral withdrawal was at the request of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in aid of the legislation introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR). Cosponsors in the House are Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Jared Huffman (D-CA). The legislation, which is based on the agency’s recommendations, will provide a higher level of protection for the Chetco’s exceptionally clear waters, wild salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout habitat and the outstanding recreation these nationally outstanding values provide.
Some of the best salmon and steelhead habitat on the West Coast is now temporarily protected from mining, but Congress still has to make the withdrawal permanent.
“The mineral withdrawal is a vital bridge to permanent protection for the Chetco,” said Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks, a national conservation organization. “It’s a positive example of members of Congress and the Administration working together to make sure this beautiful river continues to be an economic engine and a source of pure drinking water source for coastal communities.”