On January 31, a US District Court vacated decisions made by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS) that would have enabled mining exploration near Mount St. Helens.
The order concludes a lawsuit brought by Cascade Forest Conservancy (CFC) and represented by Earthrise Law Center and the Western Mining Action Project, their third successful lawsuit challenging the legality of mining permits in the Green River Valley since 2014.
The judgment follows a ruling filed in February 2021 that found the Forest Service and BLM violated federal environmental law when in 2018 they issued permits to drill 63, 2-3 inch diameter exploratory holes in search of copper, gold, and molybdenum from 23 drilling sites across hundreds of acres of the Green River Valley to the Canadian prospecting company Ascot Resources.
The ruling found that the agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not providing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public comment, issuing instead a Finding of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”) based on an Environmental Assessment (EA) that failed to accurately represent the length of time over which drilling operations would occur and to account for impacts to groundwater and recreation access.
“This is a major victory for this beautiful landscape and the many communities that would be negatively impacted by a mine,” said CFC’s Executive Director, Molly Whitney, adding that the proposed drilling operations threatened groundwater and the Green River, “a Wild and Scenic River eligible waterway and one of Washington’s few designated gene banks for wild steelhead, in addition to a source of drinking water for thousands of people living in southwest Washington.”
Washington Wild has worked as part of a coalition of conservation and recreation groups to oppose mining threats near Mt. Saint Helens since 2006. Coalition efforts have defeated efforts to clear the way for an open-pit gold mine now four times.