Letter to the editor: Mount St. Helens, Green River Valley are no place for a mine


The sights from Goat Mountain, a remote peak 12 miles north of Mount St. Helens’s crater, are extraordinary. From the summit, hikers enjoy an unmatched view of the nearby volcano and a panoramic vista of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and the Green River Valley below.

It’s a place of profound significance to Indigenous communities, a gene bank for wild steelhead, and a favorite destination of outdoor recreationists, including hunters, anglers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, hikers, foragers, and more. And it’s no place for a mine.

Despite overwhelming opposition from a broad coalition of conservationists, tribes, downstream communities, and thousands of concerned individuals, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have granted mining exploration permits here on three separate occasions.

For the fourth time in 14 years, the organization I lead, the Cascade Forest Conservancy (CFC), has secured another major legal victory to prevent the destruction a mine would inflict. A U.S. District Court finally vacated agency decisions that would have permitted exploratory drilling to begin as soon as this year. 

CFC and friends of the region are celebrating the victory but CFC’s work is far from over. Mining threats still loom over the Green River Valley. 

Mining exploration permit applications have been filed and granted following each of our previous legal victories. There is no reason to assume the threat is over because we won our latest lawsuit.

Without CFC’s legal challenges, prospecting would disrupt world-class outdoor recreation opportunities and pollute groundwater. Worse, if sufficient copper, gold, or molybdenum deposits are found, efforts to stop a massive open-pit mine (and accompanying tailing ponds of toxic waste water) would be difficult given current mining laws.

That’s why CFC is organizing a new coalition called the Green River Valley Alliance that is asking Congress to enact a mineral withdrawal, a federal designation that prevents mining activities within a given boundary. 

The time has come to value places like the Green River Valley for more than the short-term profits that companies can extract especially when those profits come at the expense of public interest, health, biodiversity, respect for indigenous communities, and the rights of future generations to enjoy the beauty and solitude we cherish in this corner of the Cascades.

Community involvement is imperative to making that happen. Visit cascadeforest.org to sign a petition asking for the mineral withdrawal, and get involved by attending one of CFC’s upcoming information sessions. Together, we can ensure that Mount St. Helens and the Green River Valley are no place for a mine — for good. 

Molly Whitney,

executive director of the Cascade Forest Conservancy


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