BLM to host meetings on proposed drilling

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A pair of public meetings this week will focus on proposed drilling near the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Canadian company Ascot Resources, which holds mining rights outside the monument, began exploratory drilling within those claims in 2010. It had planned to expand that drilling before a lawsuit halted it last year.

The Gifford Pinchot Task Force, a Portland-based advocacy group for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, filed the lawsuit to stop the drilling. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., also expressed reservations about the plans in December when she called for a full environmental impact statement, the most thorough review available.

The Battle Ground-based American Land Rights Association has urged support for the drilling and potential mining, citing its economic benefit.

The federal Bureau of Land Management, which along with the U.S. Forest Service is evaluating the project and its environmental impact, will host two meetings as part of the process.

The first meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Cowlitz Regional Conference Center, 1900 Seventh Ave. in Longview. A second open house begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Lyle Community Center, 700 W. Main St. in Morton.