Outdoor industry calls on Congress to pass “Good Samaritan” bill for abandoned mine cleanups

Legislation necessary to remove liability hurdles preventing abandoned mine cleanups


ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, a coalition of 78 outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing businesses and associations delivered a letter urging Congress to pass the bipartisan Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2024 (S.2781 & H.R.7779). Senate legislation is sponsored by U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and James Risch (R-ID) while companion legislation in the House of Representatives is sponsored by Rep. Maloy (R-UT) and Rep. Peltola (D-AK).

The support letter included leading outdoor recreation associations and brands, including the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, state outdoor recreation coalitions, and dozens of local and national hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation businesses.

The legislation has the support of dozens of bipartisan cosponsors, has been unanimously approved by the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, and is awaiting action in the House.

The bill would establish a new pilot program under the Environmental Protection Agency to provide limited liability protections for state agencies, tribes and qualified volunteer parties to clean up abandoned hardrock mines, tens of thousands of which pose environmental hazards across the country.

“The fly fishing industry is built on clean water and we need all the help we can get to tackle this enormous problem,” said Whitney Tilt, Executive Director of the AFFTA Fisheries Fund, the conservation and stewardship arm of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association and its more than 1,000 members.

The Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act would facilitate abandoned mine cleanups that are unlikely to move forward unless Congress acts. Without passage into law, abandoned mines that could otherwise be cleaned up will continue discharging their toxic brew into our rivers and streams.

The group’s letter noted that, “Everything from commercial river recreation to rafting, kayaking, to wildlife viewing, hunting, fishing and more, depends on the cold, clean waters that course through our streams and rivers and fill our wetlands and lakes. Unfortunately, many miles of those waterways are impaired by pollution from abandoned mines.” 

“California’s outdoor industry businesses and organizations urge Congress to pass the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act,” said Lexie Gritlefeld, Director of the California Outdoor Recreation Partnership. “Ever since the 1849 Gold Rush in California, abandoned mines have been prominent throughout our state’s natural landscapes. The California Department of Conservation estimates that there are 47,000 abandoned mines in the state, two thirds of which are located on federal public lands. Many of these sites present safety hazards for recreationists and it is estimated that 5,000 are causing environmental contamination. California’s public lands and headwater streams play a huge role in our state’s natural water supply and outdoor recreation economy. It is paramount that we keep them clean and our wild places safe for recreation activities as well as fish and wildlife habitat.”

“Abandoned mines are one of the country’s most pressing yet unaddressed water quality problems,” said Jim Bartschi, President of Scott Fly Rods, based in Montrose, Colo. “These sites pollute watersheds across the country, affecting everything from tiny headwater streams in California’s Sierra Nevada to famous fishing destinations like the Arkansas River in Colorado. Abandoned mines are a big problem, but with a little help from Congress, it’s a problem we can start to fix.”

An analysis by Trout Unlimited found that more than 110,000 miles of streams are listed as impaired for heavy metals and/or acidity, and abandoned mines are a major source of these impairments due to acid mine drainage.

“Good Samaritan legislation is desperately needed to help address the negative impacts of poor water quality emanating from legacy mining sites throughout the West,” said Mark Deming, Chief Marketing Officer for Northwest River Supply (NRS), an employee-owned company based in Idaho that is the world’s leading manufacturer of paddle sports gear and apparel. “Outdoor recreation businesses like ours rely on healthy public lands and clean rivers to sustain not only the outdoor recreation economy, but also our way of life. With tens of thousands of abandoned mine sites polluting the environment, we need every arrow in the quiver to tackle this massive problem, including Good Samaritan. We urge members of Congress to swiftly to pass this bill into law.”

Federal laws treat volunteers who want to clean up abandoned mines—including state agencies and private non-profits groups—as if they are the very polluters who created the mine waste. This creates daunting obstacles that prevent abandoned mine cleanups, including complicated permitting and long-term legal and financial liability for any remaining mine pollution. The letter urges members of Congress “to double down on efforts to pass this vital legislation in the 118th Congress.”

“A legal catch-22 has hamstrung abandoned mine cleanups for too long. Fortunately, there’s a bipartisan, commonsense solution before Congress to fix this conundrum,” said Diane Bristol, Vice President, Community & Culture for Simms Fishing Products, a manufacturer of fishing gear with over 170 employees in Bozeman, Mont. “At Simms we believe that we must work collectively to protect our waters and fisheries for future generations. Good Samaritan partnerships embody our conservation philosophy, and we fully support this legislation. We are optimistic that Congress will act so we can work together to clean up abandoned mines.”

In addition to the backing of the outdoor industry, S. 2781/H.R. 7779 has been endorsed by over 50 stakeholder organizations and state and local governments, including the Western Governors’ Association, Trout Unlimited, National Congress of American Indians, The Nature Conservancy, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, National Wildlife Federation, American Rivers, and the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs.


Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to caring for and recovering America’s rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Across the country, TU brings to bear local, regional, and national grassroots organizing, durable partnerships, science-backed policy muscle, and legal firepower on behalf of trout and salmon fisheries, healthy waters, and vibrant communities.