July 27, 2023

Rep. Hoyle Introduces Bill to Protect Southwestern Oregon Rivers from Mining Pollution

Rep. Hoyle Introduces Bill to Protect Southwestern Oregon Rivers from Mining Pollution

The ‘Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act’ would permanently protect Southwestern Oregon’s rivers, drinking water, wild salmon habitats, and outdoor recreation from mining pollution.

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Val Hoyle (OR-04) introduced the “Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act” (SOWSPA), legislation to enact a mining withdrawal that would ensure certain federal lands are permanently “withdrawn” from eligibility for mining claims, protecting them from toxic mining pollution. U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02) is an original cosponsor of the bill.

SOWSPA would permanently prevent new mining projects in the Hunter Creek, Pistol River, Rough and Ready Creek, and Baldface Creek watersheds in Southwestern Oregon, extending the current 20-year ban that began in 2016.

“I have heard from conservationists, business owners and elected officials from Curry County and Northern California who depend on the Southwestern Oregon watershed for clean drinking water, outdoor recreation, tourism jobs and the protection of salmon, wildlife, and rare plants. Congress must act to make the current protections against mining pollution permanent,” said Rep. Hoyle. “I’m proud to stand with the people of Southwestern Oregon in defending our world-class rivers and streams from foreign mining corporations who don’t have the commitment to our community and our environment.”

“It’s hard to overstate the ecological, cultural, and economic importance of salmon and their habitat in this Southwestern Oregon watershed – they support thousands of jobs, sustain communities, and generate billions of dollars in economic activity. They also hold immense cultural significance for Tribes, like the many in the northern reaches of my district that depend on this watershed. But mining can lead to toxic pollution that damages critical ecosystems, killing off valuable and treasured species,” said Rep. Huffman. “This legislation will protect this cornerstone species, and so much more: clean drinking water, wild rivers, and the outdoor recreation industry on which our region relies. This is an incredibly consequential bill with far-reaching implications that I am glad to be leading on with Rep. Val Hoyle.”  

“The wild and scenic rivers of our "Wild Rivers Coast" provide for clean drinking water, salmon runs, and outstanding recreation. Their headwaters are no place for strip mining and the risks of its pollution,” said Ann Vileisis, President of Kalmiopsis Audubon Society. “We’re deeply grateful for Representative Hoyle’s leadership to protect Southwest Oregon’s beloved rivers."

"SOWSPA provides important protections to the headwaters of the North Fork of the Smith River and the Illinois River, both of which are world famous among whitewater kayakers and rafters. Its protections for Rough and Ready Creek from mining will maintain the Illinois River’s famous water quality and fish habitat which draw people to our outfitted trips there,” said Zachary Collier, Owner/Outfitter at Northwest Rafting Company. “Beyond the recreational benefit of SOWSPA, these creeks are uniquely special and worth of protecting for their fish, rare flowers, and unique remote scenery.”

“On behalf of the thousands of anglers who fish each year for salmon and steelhead in rivers like the Illinois and North Fork Smith, we thank Congresswoman Val Hoyle for her leadership in conserving Oregon’s best remaining salmon and steelhead strongholds,” said Dean Finnerty, a longtime fishing and hunting guide in Southwest Oregon and now manager of Trout Unlimited’s Wild Steelhead Initiative. “This important legislation will permanently protect these waters, and the fishing opportunities that many local economies depend on, from proposed hard-rock mining, among other threats, and reflects feedback gained from many years of community outreach.”  

SOWSPA would protect high-quality salmon and steelhead strongholds, clean drinking water in Curry, Josephine, and Del Norte Counties, an active outdoor recreation and tourism economy, a high concentration of rare plants including the cobra lily, and a one-of-a-kind collection of National Wild and Scenic Rivers—the Rogue, Smith, Illinois, and Chetco.

Congresswoman Val Hoyle represents Oregon’s newly drawn fourth congressional district, which includes Benton, Coos, Curry, Lane, and Lincoln Counties, as well as part of Douglas County. Representative Hoyle serves on the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. Visit https://hoyle.house.gov/ or follow @RepValHoyle for more information.