Opponents of proposed mining projects in the Klamath Mountains in the southwest corner of Oregon are praising a federal order withdrawing more than 100-thousand acres in the area from mining activity.
The area forms the headwaters of the Smith and Illinois rivers. The rivers are a popular destination for backcountry fishing and camping. They’re also the drinking water source for more than 10,000 people. Over the past few years, proposals for open-pit nickel mines in the area have triggered vigorous resistance from everyone from conservation groups to elected officials in both Oregon and California.
The announcement that the area would be withdrawn from mining projects for 20 years brought cheers from mining opponents. Still, Joseph Vaile, with the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland, says this is a stopgap measure.
“This administrative withdrawal essentially gives time for Congress to come up with a long term solution that would just remove the strip mining threat to these rivers and streams once and for all,” he says.
The action will ban new mining, but the fate of pending mining proposals is unclear. Mining industry sources have condemned the withdrawal and are calling for the new Congress to reverse it.