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Protection Granted for 20,700 Miles of Essential Salmon Habitat

June 16, 2017 - SALEM, Ore.— Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed into law on Wednesday a bipartisan bill protecting important salmon and lamprey habitats across the state from damaging suction dredge mining.

“Suction dredge mining is an incredibly destructive hobby that threatens imperiled fish, pollutes our waterways with sediment and toxic mercury, and destroys irreplaceable cultural resources,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a major victory in the battle to protect the health of our families, waterways and wildlife from this dirty, outdated form of mining.”

Suction dredge mining is a type of recreational gold mining that uses gas-powered, floating dredges to suck up the bottoms of rivers. Miners target gravel beds critical to salmon spawning and reproduction and pollute waterways with sediment and toxic mercury and heavy metals in their search for gold.

“With support from Democrats and Republicans in urban and rural Oregon, the governor’s support for this legislation represents a critical step forward to protect the health of Oregon’s rivers and the communities that rely upon them,” said Stacey Detwiler of Rogue Riverkeeper.

The Suction Dredge Reform bill protects Oregon’s rivers and the communities that rely on them by prohibiting suction dredge mining in essential salmonid habitat. It makes permanent Oregon’s temporary moratorium in areas that are crucial for several salmon species. Outside these areas, suction dredge mining can only occur under permit.

“Suction dredging, in the wrong places, can have devastating impacts on Oregon’s valuable salmon runs and destroy commercial salmon fishing jobs,” said Glen Spain, Northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, which represents major fishing industry trade associations. “This bill achieves a better balance, simply by pulling suction dredges out of vulnerable salmon nurseries and moving them to where they would do far less economic and biological harm.”

The Suction Dredge Reform bill works to protect clean and healthy rivers that support Oregon’s recreation and commercial fishing industries. In 2008 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife found that people spent $2.5 billion on fish and wildlife recreation in the state.

“We commend Governor Brown for supporting this reasonable approach to allowing mining while still protecting our sensitive species,” said Paige Spence of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters.

This bill is the result of many years of research and collaboration from anglers, private property owners, local businesses, conservation organizations and commercial fishing representatives. Championed by the late Sen. Alan Bates from southern Oregon, the bill takes a measured approach to protecting rivers and streams that are the most vulnerable to pollution from this destructive mining practice.

“This bill provides a sustainable approach that is grounded in science to limit negative impacts on wild fish populations in Oregon and their habitat,” said Tom Wolf of the Oregon Council of Trout Unlimited.

The harm done by suction dredging is well documented by scientists and government agencies. California has also halted suction dredge mining for gold in areas that are important for rivers and fisheries because of its damage to water quality and wildlife.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Source: Center for Biological Diversity
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