Donate Now! Subscribe

Local Media Highlights Need for Mining Reform to Protect Salmon, Orca Whales

A coalition of more than 150 conservation, recreation and wildlife groups, faith leaders, and local businesses are working to pass meaningful reform of motorized suction dredge mining in Washington rivers and streams. The legislation is focused on protecting critical habitat for salmon and downstream endangered Southern Resident orca whale populations.

Local media attention on the issue is growing as we at Washington Wild continue to advocate for common-sense reform.

On 3/5/2020, The Everett Herald published an Editorial: “Protect Critical Salmon Streams from Dredge Mining.”

The legislation would limit a practice called motorized suction dredging, barring it from about 11,000 miles of streams and rivers identified as critical habitat for salmon, steelhead and bull trout. The practice would still be allowed on the remaining 61,000 miles of streams and rivers in the state.

On 3/3/2020, The Columbian published at Letter to the Editor by Donald Kohler: “Change Law on Suction Dredge Mining.”

The 270 members of Clark-Skamania Flyfishers think it is unwise to spend millions of dollars each year on salmon restoration while allowing a recreational activity to go unchecked that harms that habitat. The activity is suction dredge mining. This practice goes on at the same time of year when salmon and steelhead are likely spawning in the same waters.

On 2/20/2020, The Inlander published an article: “As the state works to protect endangered fish, Washington looks to block suction mining for gold.”

Despite spending millions of dollars each year on restoring and improving habitat for salmon and other endangered fish species, Washington state allows recreational miners to vacuum up water and riverbed sediment as they mine for gold and other metals, much to the astonishment of environmental groups.

On 2/16/2020, The Everett Herald published an Op-Ed by Scott Schuyler of the Upper Skagit Tribe: “Commentary: Mining method sucks the life from salmon streams.”

House Bill 1261 and Senate Bill 6149 in the state Legislature are important steps to protect the investment we have all make and continue to make in restoring salmon habitat and recovery for our endangered orca whales. In the end, protecting intact existing salmon habitat form motorized suction dredge mining is equally important as restoring impaired salmon habitat for the future. We need to do both to save our iconic salmon and orcas not just for the tribe but because it’s the right thing to do.

On 2/14/2020, The Yakima Herald published an article: “Years-long debate over motorized prospecting in Washington rivers continues.”

Ellensburg resident Derek Young, who recently retired from a 10-year career as a fly-fishing guide, said he also has witnessed negative impacts from suction dredge miners who didn’t comply with fish protection provisions. “The state and federal government have spent millions of dollars to restore these habitats,” he said. “In one hour, a suction dredge can erase decades of work.”

On 2/4/2020, Crosscut published an Op-Ed by Sophia Ressler: “Washington should join West Coast in banning harmful hobby mining.”

In the face of struggling populations of endangered chinook salmon ­­­­— the orcas’ most important food — Washington remains the only West Coast state that fails to adequately oversee the hobby-mining practice. Suction-dredge mining not only wipes out salmon breeding grounds and eggs, but despoils fragile streamside vegetation, stirs up highly toxic mercury from river bottoms and redeposits it into stream flows.

On 2/3/2020, The Seattle Times published an Op-Ed by Jay J. Manning and Maia D. Bellon: “Raise the Gold Standard for Salmon and Orca.”

There are currently no restrictions on where suction dredge mining is allowed. Ironically, it is commonly done in sandy and gravelly streambeds — precisely where endangered salmon and steelhead lay their eggs — habitat that we value most and spend millions of taxpayer dollars to protect and restore.

On 1/31/2020, The Wenatchee World published an Op-Ed by Leah Hemberry: “Dredge mining bill would protect Wenatchee Valley watershed.”

It’s not too late to make the hard choices to save these species that define us, but time is running out. Many of our streams, such as Nason Creek and Scotty Creek, have been closed to fishing because this habitat has been deemed critical to critically endangered salmon and steelhead. Because this habitat is so necessary for the continuation of these species it is now time to take the step to bring regulations in step with neighboring states and stop the damaging practice of suction dredging where endangered salmonids live.

On 1/8/2020, The Daily Record published a Letter to the Editor titled “Residents should be aware of suction dredge mining impacts” by Derek Young.

Because fish rely on clean, cold water and can use spawning areas over long periods of time, year-round protection of creeks like Scotty Creek near Blewett Pass, and the Swauk River in Upper Kittitas County is important to everyone who values protecting our environment and the responsible use of tax-payer funded restoration projects already in the works. We’ve already invested hundreds of millions of dollars to protect and restore salmon, bull trout, and other species in the area only to have that investment undone by small scale dredging, often cited as an “hobby” activity by miners who purchase expensive machinery to place in rivers and streams to extract small quantities of gold.