The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is in one of the more remote parts of western Oregon, not within easy reach of the main population centers in the Willamette Valley.
Its location in the southwestern corner of the state is both an asset and a liability. The 100,000 acres of public land — 95,805 acres of it national forest and 5,216 acres of it under the Bureau of Land Management — has remained unspoiled. Its streams and rivers run crystal clear, its salmon runs are a magnet for fishermen.
But its location, tucked away in the mountains east of Brookings and Gold Beach, west of Grants Pass, straddling the Oregon-California border, also means it’s not on the radar screen of many Oregonians who might otherwise be concerned about the threat it is now facing.
The Obama administration in its final days blocked plans by an overseas company to strip-mine more than 3,000 acres of the land, banning new mining for 20 years on the total 100,000 acres, which include the headwaters of the Smith and Illinois rivers and 17 miles of the Chetco River — all part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System — as well as the headwaters of the Pistol River and Hunter Creek, two prized salmon streams that flow directly into the Pacific Ocean.
The action, technically a withdrawal of mineral rights, came as Red Flat Nickel Corp. — the Panama-based subsidiary of a British investment firm, St. Peter Port Capital — made plans to begin strip mining, primarily for nickel. The 20-year ban would allow time for Congress to pass a bill that would permanently protect this special area, Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said.
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