Please Take Action now to help Wild Steelheaders United preserve this amazing wild steelhead fishery from top to bottom. See “HOW TO COMMENT.” Comment period closes May 27, 2016.
The jade-green waters of the legendary Smith River are hauntingly beautiful. But for the better part of a century this stream has haunted anglers primarily for another reason: it’s consistent runs of powerhouse wild steelhead.
The Smith, which stitches rugged country in southwestern Oregon to the California coastline at Del Norte, is perhaps the best wild steelhead angling water in California. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife considers the Smith one of two “irreplaceable” watersheds in the Golden State for salmonid population resiliency.
But mining interests want to extract valuable minerals from its headwaters. Last summer, Wild Steelheaders United and other angling and conservation groups joined forces to oppose a proposed large-scale nickel mine on Baldface Creek, a tributary to the North Fork Smith. Hundreds of steelhead advocates submitted comments to the federal Bureau of Land Management in support of a two-year moratorium on development of new mining claims.
This action is intended to protect the scenic and ecological values of the Smith River headwaters while Congress considers legislation that would permanently protect much of this area through mineral withdrawals and special designations, such as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
BLM is considering a longer (twenty-year) mineral withdrawal for the Smith River headwaters. At the same time, Wild Steelheaders United and other groups are supporting additional designations for the Smith that recognize and protect the amazing water quality and biodiversity in this watershed.
Last month, this effort paid off as the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission voted to designate the North Fork Smith and its tributaries as Outstanding Resource Waters. An Action Alert from Wild Steelheaders United helped generate forty-seven pages of comments in favor of the designation.
This is a huge victory for the Smith River’s wild steelhead. This designation effectively blocks mineral development in the North Fork Smith drainage.
A similar designation is being considered in California, too. We must help this proposal over the goal line, as well as support a longer-term mineral withdrawal by BLM.
The Smith River is too important as a wild steelhead fishery, and its clean, high quality waters are too important for communities in the lower watershed, to allow large-scale open pit mining anywhere in this watershed. We must continue to weigh in on the BLM’s process for considering a five-year mineral withdrawal to allow Congress to act on the Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act.