A conservation group is suing the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for approving a Canadian company’s request to explore for gold and other minerals just outside the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in Washington’s Cascade Mountains.
In December, the BLM approved the proposal for exploratory drilling, which would take place on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Forest Service officials gave their approval for the drilling earlier in 2018.
The Cascade Forest Conservancy filed a lawsuit challenging the approvals late last week. The group says the drilling would include parcels acquired through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is designed to be used to purchase land for purposes of protection and recreation.
Under the approved plan, workers for Ascot Resources would drill about 63 holes at 21 drill sites, close to the monument boundary and the Green River. Critics worry that the drilling could harm the river’s water quality.
“Mining activities would greatly impact the fantastic backcountry recreation opportunities within the Green River valley,” said Nicole Budine, Cascade Forest Conservancy’s policy and campaign manager. “Recreationists come here to experience solitude, not the constant noise, dust, and lights associated with drilling. This incredible area should be protected from mining so future generations can enjoy this unique landscape.”
The area that would be open to the drilling spans about 900 acres and includes portions of the blast zone from the peak’s 1980 eruption.