Chetco River Among America’s Most Endangered Rivers

Mining proposal threatens Wild and Scenic River

June 2nd, 2010

<p>Kavita Heyn, American Rivers, (503) 827-8648 <br />Barbara Ullian, Friends of the Kalmiopsis, (541) 474-2265<br />Lesley Adams, Rogue Riverkeeper, (541) 488-5789 <br />Shane Jimerfield, Siskiyou Project, (541) 476-6648<br />Harvey Young, Fish Hawk River Co., (541) 469-2422 or 661-0031</p>

Washington, DC — Expanding plans to mine the Wild and Scenic Chetco River for gold are a threat to the river’s exceptionally clear waters, world class salmon and steelhead populations and popular recreation activities. The instream mining proposal, with suction dredges weighing up to one ton, landed the Chetco in the number seven spot in America’s Most Endangered Rivers™: 2010 edition, produced by American Rivers.

“We can’t let antiquated mining laws destroy this river that is the drinking water source and economic engine for local communities,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “Congress must act to ensure that the Chetco and all of our other Wild and Scenic rivers are forever protected from harmful mining practices.”

American Rivers and its partners called on U.S Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Salazar to withdraw the Chetco River from entry under the 1872 Mining Law.  This will allow time for Congress to pass legislation to permanently protect the river from mining activities.  American Rivers also called on Congress to pass meaningful mining law reform to protect all Wild and Scenic Rivers from destructive mining.

“The Chetco supports a wild salmon and steelhead population that creates a community resource like no other. It is also a pristine place where people go for summer recreation. It is our drinking water. We don’t want to lose what the Chetco gives to so many, to enrich only a few who want to suction dredge for gold on this river,” said Harvey Young, Owner, Fishawk River Company.

“The Chetco is one of the most outstanding National Wild and Scenic Rivers on the West Coast, renowned for its enormous Chinook salmon, crystal clear water, and rugged headwaters. Its superb sport fishery is prized by local and visiting anglers and is a mainstay of our local economy. It seems absolutely crazy to allow a significant expansion of suction dredge mining in the riverbed of this outstanding river,” said Ann Vileisis, President of the Kalmiopsis Audubon Society.

“On April 16th, President Obama, with Secretaries Vilsack and Salazar at his side, launched America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.  We’re calling on the President and Secretaries to make the immediate withdrawal of the National Wild and Scenic Chetco River from the Mining Law their first act under the initiative,” said Barbara Ullian, Coordinator of Friends of the Kalmiopsis.  “The Chetco is the epitome of America’s Great Outdoors, and those who love this beautiful wild river ask the administration to help remove the dark cloud looming over it.”

“It’s hard to believe a law passed in 1872 can still be used to hold a priceless wild river and its abundant salmon hostage,” said Rogue Riverkeeper Lesley Adams.  “We need to use 21st century knowledge to protect our natural resources. The Chetco River should be protected for its fish, rather than degraded for the short-term profit of a Seattle-based developer.”

“We’ve seen the problems that in-stream mining can cause to salmon streams in the Rogue, Illinois, and Applegate Valleys,” said Shane Jimerfield, Executive Director of Siskiyou Project. “The only way to safeguard the Wild and Scenic Chetco from the antiquated 1872 mining law, is for Secretary Salazar to take action and withdraw the Chetco from mining.”

In 2008, a proposal was submitted to mine roughly 24 miles of the 44.5 mile National Wild and Scenic segment of the Chetco River, including approximately six miles within the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.  The proposal calls for mining the riverbed for gold using suction dredges.

Government inaction and the primacy of the antiquated 1872 Mining Law will result in mining becoming the default highest and best use of the river, despite its nationally outstanding fishery, clean water, and significant contribution to the local recreation economy. 

The Wild and Scenic Chetco River provides exceptionally pure and clean drinking water for the 14,000 residents of Brookings-Harbor, Oregon.   In the winter, the river’s salmon and steelhead fishery is a major economic engine for the coastal community.  In the summer, the river provides diverse recreation opportunities, including fishing, camping, swimming, picnicking, boating, and sightseeing.  The river supports nearly 200 wildlife species, including threatened coho salmon, marbled murrelets, and northern spotted owls.


About America’s Most Endangered Rivers™

Each year, American Rivers reviews nominations for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ report from river groups and concerned citizens across the country. Rivers are selected based upon the following criteria:

  • A major decision (that the public can help influence) in the coming year on the proposed action
  • The significance of the threat to human and natural communities
  • The degree to which the proposed action would exacerbate or alleviate stresses caused by climate change

The report is a call to action and emphasizes solutions for the rivers and their communities. By shining the spotlight on key decisions that will impact the rivers, and by providing clear actions the public can take on their behalf, the report is a powerful tool for saving these important rivers.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ is sponsored by Orvis, the oldest mail order company in the US, which has been outfitting customers for the sporting traditions since 1856. Orvis is a long-time supporter of American Rivers.  This is the second consecutive year that they have sponsored America’s Most Endangered Rivers and have also provided American Rivers with a 2010 Conservation Grant.  Orvis donates 5% of their pre-tax profits annually to protect nature.
American Rivers Senior Vice President for Conservation Andrew Fahlund and Associate Director Kavita Heyn (Portland, OR) are available for interviews, both pre and post embargo.  Please contact Amy Kober, 206-898-3864 for booking.

Reporters wishing to direct readers to the report online may use the following link:


About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

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