Conservationists, Outfitters Applaud Mining Reform Legislation

Senators Udall, Heinrich and Bennet and Representative Luján commended for their leadership in protecting watersheds and rural Western economies from mining disasters.

Durango, Colo. (November 5, 2015) – Conservationists and local outfitters whose livelihoods depend on healthy rivers applaud the legislation introduced today by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015, would ensure mining companies pay royalties for the privilege of extracting public resources from public lands.

The Conservation Lands Foundation—the only organization dedicated to protecting, expanding and restoring the National Conservation Lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)— welcomed the lawmakers’ commitment to protecting Western watersheds and economies and ensuring that mining companies contribute royalties up front to pay for the cleanup of abandoned mines.

According to Dave Welz, Associate Director for Communications at Conservation Lands Foundation, this is an issue that hits close to home. “We work on 31 million acres of BLM-managed National Conservation Lands all across the West, but we’re headquartered here in Durango, Colorado, where the Animas River is a lifeblood for our recreation economy and for our ranchers and farmers. The Animas River attracts visitors from all over the world,” Welz said. “As someone who has fished and rafted it for two decades, the Gold King Mine blowout was a huge wake up call. We thank Senators Bennet, Udall and Heinrich and Representative Luján for their leadership in ensuring that mining companies do not leave American taxpayers on the hook when it comes to protecting rural Western communities’ clean water and economies from the toxic legacy of abandoned mines.”

“We were up 20% until the Gold King spill—on track for our best year ever—then the next day the river was closed. We’re used to seasonality, drought years, we can plan for all that. But this you can’t plan for,” said Andy Corra of 4Corners Riversports in Durango, whose sister business runs guided raft trips on the Animas River between Silverton and Durango as well as other Western rivers, including the Colorado River in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area—part of the National Conservation Lands. “On top of the almost $20,000 hit to our rafting business, it shut down our paddleboard rentals and our kayak school. We finished down 10% for the year.”

In August, a blowout at Silverton’s Gold King Mine sent over 3 million gallons of toxic mine wastewater into the Animas River, the lifeblood of a high desert region that supports wildlife, agriculture, recreation and tourism economies and Indian reservations. The lawmakers also joined together to introduce the Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act of 2015 to ensure the EPA compensates those who were impacted by the toxic spill.

The Conservation Lands Foundation works to protect, restore and expand the National Conservation Lands so they will endure from generation to generation. The National Conservation Lands are 31 million acres of the most ecologically, culturally and historically significant public lands and waterways managed by the Bureau of Land Management that have joined the ranks of our national parks and wildlife refuges as guardians of our nation’s heritage and drivers of the country’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy.

Posted by Dave Welz in Media Releases
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