On August 27th, the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument celebrated its 40th anniversary. The monument was the first National Volcanic Monument in the nation and was formally established by Congress and signed into law in 1982 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
The designation happened two years after the major eruption of May 18, 1980, which remains the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in U.S. history. The Monument is the best place for visitors from around the world to experience the power of a Cascadian volcano up close. This area is a sublime landscape filled with unusual beauty, vibrant ecosystems, and watersheds that support a wide variety of plants and wildlife.
Mount St. Helens (known as Lawetlat’la to the indigenous Cowlitz people, and Loowit or Louwala-Clough to the Klickitat) is officially recognized as a Traditional Cultural Property of the Confederated Bands and Tribes of the Yakama Nation and the Cowlitz Indian Tribe due to the profound cultural and spiritual significance of the Mountain to Indigenous peoples.
The protections created by the National Monument have allowed scientists and researches an unprecedented opportunity to study how ecosystems recover following a cataclysmic event in an area with limited human impacts.
As we celebrate 40 years of the Monument and its protections, we know that the significance of this landscape extends beyond the designated boundary approved by Congress. The areas just adjacent to the Monument are still vulnerable and face threats like mining.
The Green River Valley Alliance — of which Washington Wild is a member — is working to fight for permanent protections against mining within an area of the Green River Valley directly neighboring the Monument-lands. This area was included in the initial 1982 proposal, but was removed at the last minute, leaving them vulnerable to mining.
In pursuit of permanent protections against mining, the Alliance is pursuing a legislative mineral withdrawal — a federal land management tool, secured through an Act of Congress, which would prohibit mining activities within a given boundary without impacting any other activities in the area.
As we reflect on the last 40 years of the National Volcanic Monument, let’s reaffirm our commitment to ensuring this area is protected against the threat of mining, once and for all!