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Conservation, Recreation Groups Oppose Mining Expansion in North Cascades Roadless Area

Today, Washington Wild coordinated a letter signed by 21 conservation and recreation organizations and local businesses to the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. The letter expressed concern over the draft Environmental Assessment for the 10 acre expansion of the Swen Larson olivine quarry on the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest in Whatcom County. Read the Comment Letter here.

Swen Larson Quarry, Photo Courtesy of USDA

The expansion area is entirely within the Mt. Baker West Inventoried Roadless Area, which is afforded protection from new road construction and related development under the Roadless Area Conservation Rule of 2001. Roadless areas are comprised of unlogged ancient forests which are underrepresented on national forest lands due to unsustainable logging practices decades agoRoads have measurable and important impacts on the watershed and surrounding environment. Moreover, the specific environment proposed for expansion has been and should continue to be managed for unroaded values.

The Mt. Baker West Roadless Area, located north of the Twin Sisters, in which the proposed expansion would take place, includes intact old-growth forests that serve as part of the municipal watershed for the City of Bellingham and its 85,000 residents. The removal of the surface forest, vegetation and soils raises potential water quality concerns for residents and local businesses.

Furthermore, the broader Mt. Baker West Roadless Area and Middle Fork Nooksack Road corridor are local destinations for recreational opportunities including climbing, horseback riding, hiking, paddling and other activities. The mine lies just to the north of the Twin Sisters, two popular summits on the western edge of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. While mine expansion would not directly impact access to the recreational resources in the area, it does pose significant environmental impact to the landscape and viewsheds that are important to the hiking, scrambling, and climbing experiences in this area.

Washington Wild was among the 19 conservation and recreation organizations who signed a scoping comment letter on this issue on October 12, 2016.