The news last week that Kinross Gold is pulling its draft environmental plan to be able to drill core samples on publicly owned land came as a shocker to Okanogan and Ferry counties.
The company — which provides some of the last living-wage, non-governmental jobs in the region — said it is pulling the assessment after spending more than $10 million and five years trying to assuage the unwarranted concerns of federal bureaucrats. Unfortunately for the local economy, the U.S. Forest Service officials in charge of the environmental permitting process aren’t interested in the impact their overbearing demands will have here.
Kinross provides hundreds of jobs in both counties. The company donates time and money to local organizations trying to make surrounding communities a better place to live. But that doesn’t seem to matter to those officials.
If you take a drive in the highlands near the currently active Buckhorn mine, you’ll likely not even notice the firm is digging for gold thousands of feet beneath the surface. But that doesn’t seem to matter, either.
The fact is, the area’s economy depends, in part, on Kinross’ ability to continue prospecting and mining on public lands set aside for the benefit of area residents. Putting it bluntly, the U.S. Forest Service’s overbearing ways are hurting the local economy.
Okanogan and Ferry County commissioners realize how important it is to have a strong employer here that is committed not only to its business operation, but also surrounding communities. They have vowed to take up the fight with the federal government on behalf of not only Kinross, but all natural-resource based companies that provide jobs and contribute to the culture and communities here in North-Central Washington.
We support that fight.
U.S. Forest Service officials need to take a step back and realize how much their decisions are undermining the natural-resource based economy that made North-Central Washington. If they can’t do that, they should step aside and let local governments manage the land in a manner that both preserves the environment and contributes to the economy.