Ten Western watersheds affected by pollution from abandoned mines profiled in report
Manager, Media Relations
8/18/2004 -- Washington -- The national conservation organization Trout Unlimited (TU) today released a report entitled “Settled, Mined and Left Behind,” which illuminates the threats posed by abandoned hardrock mines to drinking water and fisheries throughout the West.
“The EPA estimates that 40 percent of the West’s headwaters streams are affected by abandoned mines,” said Chris Wood, TU Vice President for Conservation Programs. “Abandoned mines are the environmental equivalent of the crazy aunt in the attic – they’re a huge problem about which no one wants to talk.”
“Settled, Mined and Left Behind” highlights neither the most polluted nor most widely known abandoned mine-affected rivers and watersheds, but instead focuses on those where effective clean ups are possible. The report includes Montana’s Blackfoot, Colorado’s Animas and Upper Arkansas, Oregon’s Rogue, New Mexico’s Red, Idaho’s Salmon, Washington’s Kettle and Methow, and California’s Sacramento basins.
The centerpiece of the report is the American Fork Canyon, located between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah, where TU recently hired Ted Fitzgerald to clean up abandoned mine sites on private land, adjacent to the Uinta National Forest where the Forest Service has worked to remediate environmental hazards from abandoned mines on public land.
Speaking at a press conference at the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort overlooking the canyon, U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth told reporters, “There should be no doubt that federal land stewards need to remain diligent in finding ways to deal with these sites. Nothing short of the quality of some of the West’s best rivers and streams – and the public’s drinking water – are at stake.”
TU is launching a major effort to clean up abandoned mines identified in the report.
Trout Unlimited staff in Utah, Colorado and Montana will work with TU chapters, other anglers and local community leaders to help set priorities and secure sorely needed funding.
“Existing laws may actually create a disincentive for private entities such as TU to cleanup abandoned mines, and funding is woefully scarce for restoration efforts,” TU’s Wood added. “But significant progress can be made when people work together to restore the health of the lands and waters that sustain us.”
At a simultaneous press event in Denver, Sharon Lance, Chairperson of the TU Colorado Council, said, “Most people don’t think of abandoned mines as problems that touch their daily lives, but the reality is far different. These sites often are the source of the heavy metals that make it into our drinking water and onto our dinner plates. This is why our volunteers are so energized to work on this issue.”
“Settled, Mined and Left Behind” can be downloaded in PDF format from www.tu.org.
Hard copies of the report can be obtained by calling 703.284.9427 or 503-827-5700, extension 10.
Mission: Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 130,000 members in 450 chapters in North America.