Mining Threatens World Class Salmon and Steelhead Stream
The Wild and Scenic Chetco River is renowned for its world-class salmon and steelhead runs, and crystal clear water. Flowing from the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in southwest Oregon, it’s truly a national treasure.
Although Congress protected the Chetco in 1988 by adding it to the National Wild and Scenic River System, the General Mining Law of 1872 gives mining preference over all other values and uses.
Now proposals to mine almost half the length of this extraordinary river threatens all the values the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act seeks to protect.
The miners would extract from the river itself — and the rocks and gravel that provide stable habitat critical to the survival of spawning salmon and steelhead.
Seeking protection from mining: temporarily & permanently
The good news is that the U.S. Forest Service protected about 17 miles of the river (5,610 acres) by temporarily withdrawing it from the 1872 Mining Law for five years.
That gives Congress time to consider legislation (the Chetco River Protection Act) for permanent protection.
The temporary withdrawal prevents the location of new mining claims. Mining could still happen on existing claims but only if the mining company demonstrates they have a right to mine under the law.
Absent Congress’ reform of the 1872 Mining Law it’s the best we can do for this beautiful Wild and Scenic River.
The Chetco is one of the wildest most extraordinary natural rivers on the West Coast, with salmon and steelhead populations crucial to the recovery of these imperiled species. Any small benefit there might be from gold mining would be insignificant when compared to the risk of degrading this one-of-a-kind Wild and Scenic River.
— Tim Palmer, local resident and author of The Wild and Scenic Rivers of America