Like most places, we have our prophets of doom in Southwest Oregon. They oppose just about everything—even the most modest proposals, such as a bill expanding protection for the Oregon Caves National Monument. The legislation will help assure clean safe drinking water for the approximately 80,000 visitors that come each year to the tiny, 488 acre, national park unit. It will increase recreation opportunities and it allows hunting.
Expanding protection for the Oregon Caves National Monument will even help protect the drinking water of Cave Junction and Kerby because the expanded protected area is in watershed of the East Fork Illinois River.
But if you’re a doomsayer, it doesn’t matter if something is good. They just gotta complain. One such prophet of doom recently wrote this on the Illinois Valley/Cave Junction Facebook page:
this expansion of the caves monument is going to take away a lot of minors [sic] right to mine their claims … The reason they use to make this larger is just an excuse to grab more land and minerals…
He’s wrong about the mining rights and the land grab.
Anyone with an actual right to mine—under the 1872 Mining Law—will not have that right taken away by Oregon Caves Revitalization Act (H.R. 2489 and S. 354). The mining withdrawal is “subject to valid existing rights.” In other words, if a miner has a “valid existing right” to mine, it cannot be taken away.
Second, protecting public lands for all Americans is NOT a land grab. Mining on National Forest and BLM lands, on the other hand, is. Miners deface and destroy lands belonging to all of us. Any minerals they find are “theirs,” but the clean up cost is usually “ours.” Adding insult to injury, miners pay absolutely no royalties for the valuable minerals they gouge from our public lands. Now that’s a land and mineral grab of epic proportions.
Let’s also look at the economics. According to a National Park Service study, in 2011 the Oregon Caves National Monument attracted 76,194 visitors who spend $3.85 million in local communities. The spending supported 59 jobs in the local area. Click here to read the OPB story.
The contribution to the local economy by hardrock mining is a different story. According to USGS’s most recent mineral report for Oregon, there is essentially no measurable hardrock mineral production in the State of Oregon. See the 2009 Oregon Minerals Yearbook (Advanced Release). In Josephine and Curry Counties, the only measurable minerals produced are sand and gravel and crushed stone. These are what’s called common variety minerals. They don’t come with any special 1872 Mining Law rights.
Expanding protection for the Oregon Caves National Monument will include permanently protecting Mount Elijah and the Bigelow Lake Botanical Area. These are treasures any national park unit would welcome. Please speak out in support of the Oregon Cave Revitalization Act. Write letters to the editor and to your county commissioners.
Many years ago a good friend and I—with her twin daughters—spent the night on the top of Mount Elijah during the height of the Perseid Meteor Shower. There was a 360 degree view of the unpolluted dark night sky. Warm in our sleeping bags, we drank hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps and oohed and awed at the spectacle overhead, till “in the peace of wild things” we fell asleep on our mountain top. Priceless.
Read more about expanding protection for Oregon Caves National Monument
- Oregon Caves National Monument – KS Wild
- Representative Peter DeFazio’s Press Release on the bill to expand protections to the Oregon Caves National Monument.
- Senators Wyden, Merkley introduce land bills to protect Wilderness in Oregon