BY SEN. ALAN OLSEN | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
My name is Alan Olsen, and I am a member of the Oregon Senate, representing District 20. I am also Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. This will be the third legislative session I have served on this committee, and I am still consistently surprised by the type of policy that I see moving through the committee.
Last week the committee voted on two bills to ban legally permitted small-scale mining operations on Oregon's waterways. SB 838 will impose a five-year moratorium on small-scale mining with suction dredge equipment, and SB 401 will declare 14,000 miles of Oregon waterways as "scenic waterways." I voted against both bills for one simple reason; not once during the many hours of public testimony was the committee presented with scientific evidence that the practice of small-scale suction dredge mining is damaging to fish populations or the environment.
The opponents of the bill; including scientists and members of the mining community, provided countless examples of how the practice is environmentally sound and unobtrusive to streams and rivers. The proponents of the bill argued that their "gut instinct" is that the practice must be bad and that Oregon must ban the practice for 5 years in order to determine if their instincts are correct. The majority of my colleagues on the committee must have the same gut instinct because the bill passed.
So there you have it Oregon; your lawmakers have taken it upon themselves to make scientific judgments about things they do not understand so that they can ban an activity they personally disapprove of. The five-year moratorium is a last-ditch effort by the bill's proponents to allow science to catch up with their personal beliefs. The bill calls for a scientific study of the practice's environmental impact to take place during the moratorium.
In the meantime we can say goodbye to small-scale mining in Oregon. Who needs science when you have the Oregon Legislature?
Alan Olsen (R-Canby) is a member of the Oregon State Senate, representing District 20.
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