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Conservation Groups and Local Businesses Question Olivine Mine Expansion near Mt. Baker

Posted on Oct 12, 2016 in Conservation News, Forest Management, Mining

Washington Wild coordinated a joint comment letter signed by 19 conservation, recreation and local business leaders expressing concern over a proposed expansion of an olivine mine/quarry in Whatcom County.

Photo Courtesy of Gilbert Weidinger

Photo Courtesy of Gilbert Weidinger

United Western Supply has proposed a 10-acre expansion of the Swen Larson olivine Quarry into an inventoried roadless area on Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. The agency solicited public comments to inform what issues should be considered as part of an environmental analysis on a Plan of Operations for the mine expansion.

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.

Photo Courtesy of Jack Lamb

Photo Courtesy of Jack Lamb

“As a brewer, anything that could impact the quality of our water is a concern,” said Jack Lamb, CEO of Aslan Brewing Company in Bellingham WA and a signatory to the joint comment letter, “As a member of the Washington Brewshed® Alliance, we have been working with Washington Wild to highlight the importance of protecting upper watersheds which provide clean quality water for fish, wildlife, residents and better tasting beer.”

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.

The letter was signed by 19 organizations including Washington Wild, Conservation Northwest, North Cascades Conservation Council, Washington Chapter of the Sierra Club, Washington Trails Association, Washington Wildlife Federation, Skagit Audubon Society, Mount Baker Club, Pilchuck Audubon Society, Aslan Brewing Company, The Wilderness Society, The Mountaineers, North Cascades Audubon Society and WildEarth Guardians.

Read the joint comment letter.