As it turns out we could have one of the richest mineral deposits ever discovered in Washington State, right in our backyard here in Southwest Washington. Mount Margaret is located in the Saint Helens Mining District of Skamania County, about 22 miles southwest of Randle. The Mount Margaret deposit holds the potential for tremendous economic opportunity for Southwest Washington and our nation.

The process of exploring and developing a mineral deposit in an environmentally respectful manner demands a careful and deliberate process. The mining firm of Ascot Resources, Ltd is conducting tests to know if and how to move forward with a mine plan. The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service has been working closely with Ascot. There has been no imprint on the environment with this careful testing.

Using a series of small, soup-can size drill holes that gather core samples to test the mineral deposits, the exploration drilling is closely monitored in conjunction with U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. But now Portland-based advocacy group, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, has brought suit against the Forest Service to pull the testing.

People in the community of Lewis and Skamania counties are eager for job opportunities, and the unnecessary delays caused by political pressure from outside groups to block all natural resource development are frustrating. This Portland opposition group is trying to manipulate the process by pressuring government agencies to conduct extensive environmental review NOW on the exploratory drilling and the mine that MIGHT one day exist.

Analysis of environmental impacts of the proposed exploration is fair, but it is far too early to analyze the impacts of a mine. There isn’t even a mine plan to analyze. There is only a limited exploration plan before the agency.  This would be like demanding a home inspection before you even drew up the blueprint for a house!

The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are developing the scope of the environmental review for the permit. This will determine how quickly the process can move forward. We hope it can, resulting in bringing jobs, money for the local economy and tax revenue.

The first major step in this process is public meetings in Longview and Morton.

Wednesday, Feb. 15, 6:30-8 p.m.
Cowlitz Regional Conference Center (Loowit Room)
1900 seventh Avenue, Longview, WA

Thursday, Feb. 16, 6:30-8 p.m.
Lyle Community Center
700 W. Main Street, Morton, WA

Those who oppose the project are sure to attend. Don’t let outsiders determine the future of SW Washington. We really need to illustrate how strongly the community – you and your neighbors – support allowing the concept to be explored.

The professional staff at the agencies understands the exploration is a low-impact project on less than one acre of land and the environmental analysis should be confined to that exploration and reclamation alone.

Please set aside Feb. 15 or 16 to attend one of these meetings.