Kalmiopsis and Wild Rivers Coast Protected from Mining!

Southern Oregon and northern California are bursting with wild rivers. On Friday, January 13, 2017, the Obama Administration announced the completion of a multi-year process to remove the strip mining threat to 100,000 acres and 100 miles of rivers on the Kalmiopsis Wild Rivers region of Southwest Oregon.

We are celebrating the recent victory to protect some of our most prized rivers from proposed industrial strip mining for a period of 20 years. We are hopeful that this victory will stand, even in the Trump administration.

Straddling the Josephine and Curry County border and extending west towards the coast, this area is just outside the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area. It contains portions of the Smith River, Illinois River and Hunter Creek watersheds.

The Kalmiopsis and Wild Rivers Coast are host to off-the-chart botanical diversity and some of the purest waters found anywhere in the world. These waters tumble through wild streams and rivers and flow to the Pacific Ocean. The streams appear bluish-green because the water is so clear that the serpentine rock gives it an emerald appearance.

This region’s soils contain nickel and other minerals, and have attracted mining corporations, including a foreign investment firm, to use the 1872 Mining Law to push for strip mining. Air pollution, smelters, and potentially toxic runoff in the Smith, Illinois, and nearby streams alarmed nearby residents, fishermen, and conservation groups.

These rivers are home to wild salmon and provide critical drinking water. Communities in and around Gold Beach and Cave Junction, Oregon and Crescent City, California opposed the strip mines, along with Native American tribes, dozens of businesses, and elected leaders.

Senators Merkley and Wyden (OR), along with Congressmen DeFazio (OR), and Huffman (CA) also pressed for interim protection while Congress considered more permanent protection. During the public comment periods for the temporary ban, over 70,000 comments were received, almost unanimously favoring river conservation!

Though the Obama Administration finalized a 20-year mining “time-out” for this region, the effort to protect these rivers is not over. We expect the mining companies to push back, but we will continue to work with our partners to permanently protect these wild rivers from strip mining.

Who we work with – Friends of the Kalmiopsis was central to this effort and has been dedicated to defending this special place for decades. KS Wild also worked with the Kalmiopsis Audubon, Native Fish Society, American Rivers, American Whitewater, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and Smith River Alliance, and many others.

Smith River Watershed and Off Road Vehicles

The Smith River Watershed is literally like no place else on Earth. Salmon and steelhead still thrive in its undammed pristine pools. Rare endemic plants proliferate. And large expanses of untrammeled backcountry forests endure.

Yet, where most Americans see a unique natural heritage, a handful of folks hope to turn large swaths of the Smith National Recreation Area into a playground for extreme off-road vehicles. Only 1% of visitors to the Smith identify ORV recreation as their primary activity, and yet the Forest Service is proposing to encourage ORV use in roadless areas and botanical hotspots. KS Wild is working with allies and supporters to ensure that the unique natural values of the Smith Watershed are retained for future generations just as they were handed to us.