The Forest Service’s decision did not permit a mine, “only prospecting (exploration) activities within the prospecting permit areas. It is not a mineral leasing or development (mining) proposal,” according to the consent document, written by Cowlitz Valley District Ranger Gar Abbas.
The BLM’s Monday decision is subject to a 30-day appeal.
The area is popular for horseback riding, camping and hunting, and, historically, was heavily used for logging and some mining.
The Forest Service bought some of the land involved in the 1980s, using money meant to serve the interests of recreation and conservation. The proposal to mine in the area has drawn the ire of environmental groups and politicians.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., blasted the Forest Service’s decision in February, calling mining near Mount St. Helens “a short-sighted decision that undervalues the important benefits these public spaces offer both to our booming recreation economy and to families who come from near and far to enjoy their beauty.”
The nearby Green River is a state-designated gene bank for wild winter steelhead, meaning hatchery fish aren’t introduced. It’s also a candidate for a federal Wild and Scenic River designation.
The Washington, D.C.-based conservation organization American Rivers has twice declared the Green River, with its headwaters running close to the proposed drilling area, as one of the most endangered rivers in the nation.
The Cascade Forest Conservancy, a regional conservation group, has organized against this and past attempts to mine in the area, and says mining exploration and development could harm threatened salmon and steelhead populations in the Green River and threaten downstream communities’ drinking water.