America’s Most Endangered Rivers for 2013: Rough & Ready and Baldface Creeks
At Risk: Pristine rivers, wilderness, botanical diversity, and recreation
Threat: Nickel mining
Rough & Ready and Baldface Creeks, tributaries of the Wild and Scenic Illinois and North Fork Smith rivers, flow clean and clear through some of the wildest country in the West. These eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers are celebrated by wildflower enthusiasts and hikers. Unfortunately, nickel mines threaten to destroy these unique, wild streams. Members of the Oregon Congressional delegation previously asked the Obama Administration to withdraw the area from mining, but the Administration did not act.
Congress and the Interior and Agriculture Secretaries must now permanently protect the natural treasures of Rough & Ready and Baldface Creeks from mining before their clean water, fish and wildlife, and wild character are irreparably harmed.
At Rough & Ready Creek, a recently formed mining company has located new claims and submitted a new mining plan to USFS. It includes mining lands recommended as Wilderness, miles of road construction in the Rough & Ready Creek Botanical Area and South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, and a smelter facility on the Rough & Ready Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
At Baldface Creek, a foreign-owned mining company has submitted a plan to conduct exploratory drilling at 59 sites in the Baldface Creek/North Fork Smith watershed, across approximately 2,000 acres of the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The information gathered will be used to advance mine development. Baldface Creek’s watershed was recommended as Wilderness by the Bush Administration.
The Environmental Protection Agency identified metal mining as the largest toxic polluter in the U.S. Strip mining, road construction, and metal processing would devastate this fragile, precious wild area. If one mine starts operating, thousands of acres of other nickel claims could be developed on nearby federal public lands— impacting designated and eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers and turning one of North America’s most important rare plant centers and clean water supplies into an industrial wasteland. The Forest Service already concluded that this type of mining would have drastic and irreversible impacts at Rough & Ready Creek. Dangers include high chromium content smelter waste, naturally occurring asbestos, air and water pollution, and impacts to a world-class salmon and steelhead river.
Members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation have repeatedly asked the Obama Administration to help them protect these Oregon treasures by withdrawing the federal lands in the Rough & Ready and Baldface Creek area from the 1872 Mining Law. Despite the extremely high scientific, social, and ecological values at risk, the area remains open to destructive mining and acquisition by mining companies under this unjust antiquated law.
What Must Be Done
The only way to prevent these priceless lands and waters from being polluted and destroyed by mining is for the Obama Administration to provide interim protection by immediately withdrawing their watersheds from application of the 1872 Mining Law, and for Congress to pass legislation to permanently protect Rough & Ready Creek, Baldface Creek, and the surrounding area from mining. Immediate action is needed to preserve this cherished botanical and recreation wonderland, and the rivers that flow through it, for present and future generations.