Toxic Mining Runoff Would Put Community Health and Economy in Danger
Flowing from Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to the Toutle River, eventually converging with the Cowlitz River, the Green River is a national gem for its scientific, ecological, and recreational values.
The Green River valley provides habitat to the threatened spotted owl and salmon and is home to some of the most unique ecological features in the country. Patches of ancient forest that survived the eruption of Mount St. Helens are next to areas that were stripped entirely by the 1980 blast. These recovery areas provide unique opportunities for scientific research on the effects of volcanic eruption and the natural restoration of plants and wildlife.
The river is also the lifeblood for local recreation and tourism. In fact, these travel and tourism businesses provide just under 8,000 jobs in surrounding counties. In contrast, mining provides only 353 jobs.
In 2010, a Canadian corporation purchased mining interests in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest adjacent to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument near the headwaters of the Green River. The company began active exploration of the area and intends to continue with exploratory drilling in 2011. This exploration is the first step in a process that could result in a 3,000 acre mine adjacent to Mount St. Helens.
A large mineral mine in an active earthquake region at the edge of a volcano poses a serious danger to the community and the environment. It not only could release toxins that would contaminate community drinking water supplies downstream, but would also devastate threatened salmon runs. This mine would also impact ancient forests, a roadless area, and popular recreation sites.
The US Forest Service has refused to perform an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Such a review is critical to understanding the risks to drinking water and threatened fish in the Green River Valley. This area has been threatened by mining before, but public outcry stopped the proposal. It needs to be stopped once and for all. The Green River valley and Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument are unique and special, and not an appropriate location for a mine.
What Must Be Done
Mining in the area would endanger the health of the local community and the environment. The Forest Service should acquire the mineral rights in the National Forest, and Congress should designate the Upper Green River as Wild and Scenic. This would protect the Green River’s free-flowing nature, water quality, recreational opportunities, and other nationally-significant values for future generations.