Oregon’s Chetco River and the false narrative

We stumbled upon this article about the Chetco this morning and while it is a pretty standard article about how they are enacting a 5 year ban on dredging in the Chetco, what drew our attention to it is the comments at the bottom.  False narratives posted by enviro’s for the purpose of pushing their agenda further.  We want to encourage you to comment when you see articles like this with the facts to counter their narrative.

We often see comments like “dredging kills fish”, “dredgers don’t care about the environment”, “miners destroy public lands”…  We here at AMRA have many accounts to post back to these folks, we state the studies which show dredging does not harm fish and ask them to provide proof, links, facts to back up their statements.  Of course they never do because there aren’t any.





Interior Department extends Chetco River gold mining withdrawal for five years

On the Chetco River. (Ann Vileisis, Kalmiopsis Audubon Society)

Scott Learn, The Oregonian By Scott Learn, The Oregonian
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on July 26, 2013 at 11:54 AM, updated July 26, 2013 at 9:11 PM


The Department of the Interior has withdrawn 17 miles of southwest Oregon’s vaunted Chetco River from new mining claims for five years.

The withdrawal, which extends a two-year moratorium, comes at the request of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and much of Oregon’s congressional delegation. Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, all Democrats, are trying to pass a Chetco River Protection Act that would permanently bar in-stream mining along 80 percent of the Chetco.

The withdrawn section of the river in Curry County has been targeted for in-river gold mining with commercial suction dredges. Interior’s order, issued earlier this month, withdraws 5,610 acres of national forest lands running a quarter mile along the river.

Nearly 45 miles of river, including the lower 17-mile stretch that ends at the national forest boundary just above Loeb State Park, are designated wild and scenic. But absent a withdrawal or permanent protection, the lower portion, classified as scenic or recreational, is still open to mining.

The Chetco, along with other Southwest Oregon rivers, is a battleground between conservationists and miners who say their rights under the federal government’s 1872 mining law trump more recent environmental laws.

The Chetco’s headwaters originate in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Barbara Ullian, coordinator of Friends of the Kalmiopsis, said the withdrawal gives Congress time to act.

The Chetco, known for its remarkable clarity, hosts thriving populations of fall chinook, winter steelhead and sea-run cutthroat trout. It’s a destination spot for anglers worldwide, Ullian said.

“The mining that was proposed would have been a huge disturbance of the streambed for 10 years,” she said. “And that streambed is the nursery for the wild fishery.”

— Scott Learn




This is GOOD news. The fishery is MUCH more profitable, overall, than the small amount of gold that MIGHT be extracted, at the cost of destruction of miles of salmon habitat.

What destruction of habitat? Read the two studies performed by DFG in CA (paid for by taxpayers because of politicians wanting to stop dredging) which clearly state that suction dredging is not harmful to anadramous fish and creates fish habitat. You can read their studies at dfg.gov

People with agendas are trying to write the narrative that dredging is bad with no science to back it up.

Open your eyes and think for one minute…………….perhaps someone has ulterior motives for keeping the public off of public lands. Ever wonder why they are closing so many roads, making more and more waterways wild and scenic?

Don’t be a sheep, read, search out the truth and do not vilify small miners who in fact help the environment.

Good. This river deserves permanent protection. And the 1872 Mining Law needs a serious overhaul.

What overhauls does it need? All the 1872 mining act does is state that the public has a fundamental right to the land, the minerals and a right to responsibly obtain those minerals. Perhaps you have never read the 1872 mining act?

Miners and dredgers are not the bad guys here. Water management, politicians with agendas and groups with agendas are.

I don’t mine, sometimes fish, sometimes raft, but to deny miners to find gold just ain’t right. Why is recreational fishing seen as good for fish ( and don’t bring up fishing licenses fund it as it funds the people working in the wildlife dept more).

Meanwhile, there are resources in the river, i.e., gold, that is there for the taking. There is NO proof that mining the river hurts anything. If it is one of the clearest rivers now, with many salmon as the story states, well, gee, proof that dredging ain’t a hurting the fish.

Once again, those with a political agenda trying to tell others how to live because they are biased against anyone but their own views. Philistines.

There are many restrictions placed on those fishing along the Chetco.

The problem isn’t necessarily that they are just out there on a casual weekend with a pan in hand looking for a couple tiny rocks for the thrill of it, these guys are making a career out using gigantic vacuums to suck up the river bottom.

Your definition of “proof” leaves something to be desired. Multiple studies have shown the adverse effects on water quality, fish populations, plant populations, amphibian populations and the rest of river bottom ecosystems when the natural order of boulders, sand, small rocks, river channels, etc. are constantly moved around, brought to the top and redeposited after filtration.

Your logic is a bit like “there are trees on public lands (resources) that are there for the taking” so we should just allow people to go out and clearcut wherever they want. I have no problem at all restricting commercial river bottom mining any more than I have a problem with restricting logging, free range cattle grazing, fishing, hunting, etc.

You claim there are multiple studies. Provide links and the studies.

There have been two independent studies (paid for by us taxpayers) performed by DFG, one in 1997 and another in 2009 which conclusively show and state that suction dredging is not harmful to anadramous fish and create fish spawning grounds.

Your narrative that it is harmful is simply wrong. Dredging removes mercury from the rivers which the miners used in the 1850’s to about the 1940’s. It loosens the “concretized” gravels in the river bottom and creates habitat.

No, this is about an agenda and not fish as the studies prove.

Excellent news.
Oregon now needs to prohibit or at least severely restrict recreational suction dredge placer mining statewide. Put the recreation back in it by requiring they use sluice boxes and pans.
Probably wishful thinking knowing how the State legislature is made up.

They floated a bill to do as you suggest, but I guess it died in committee, ’cause I never heard about the outcome.

I’m puzzled why the Department of Interior would be making this withdrawal, since that part of the Chetco is in the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest, Department of Agriculture.

All surface mining is regulated by the Department of the Interior.


This great news for one of Oregon’s most beautiful rivers.

I agree. Now if something similar could be done for the Rogue River.

No quotes from miners?

They’re not “miners.” They are hobbyists, and they don’t really give much of a damn about the river.

Absolutely they are not “miners” in the traditional sense of the word (union grunt working for multinational corporation in a deep dark hole, or pit, or even underwater somewhere), but most are way beyond casual weekend hobbyist (such as fishing, coin collecting, kite flying, panning for gold on a family camping trip) and do it as a full time gig and need the money.

The VERY small amount of money they might make, relative to the LARGE amount of damage to a PUBLIC resource, at public expense.

What a terrible thing to say.

I assume you can provide some evidence that miners “don’t care about the rivers”? Proof?

Best of OregonLive.com

2 thoughts on “Oregon’s Chetco River and the false narrative

  1. I have prospected for gold on the Chetco while my friend was fishing. I do not see any conflicts with sharing the beauty of the river while we each enjoy our favorite recreation. I agree with Tammy (in prevous entry) when she said that the fact that the Chetco is so clear and the fish habitat is so strong while dredging has been on-going proves that dredging is not harmfull to the river or the fish habitat. I also know that the DFG studies on dredging have repeatedly shown that dredging actually improved the fish habitat. I suspect that if the Governments own study is true, then their proposed action to remove dredging from the Chetco River may actually deteriorate the fish spawning and fish habitat over time.

  2. Great post and accurate John.

    Back in the late 80’s when there were forest fires in the south mother lode of California, the Dept. of Fish and Game would actually call the dredgers into the rivers because back then they knew how much fish habitat dredging created and it brought back all the fish. That was prior to them using talking points instead of facts………all for an agenda.

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