Press Release: Oregon Court of Appeals Rejects Oakridge Mining Proposal

December 16, 2022
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-844-8182
Sean Malone, Attorney for Petitioners, 303-859-0403
Salem, Oregon—The Oregon Court of Appeals recently ruled against the proposal to mine TV Butte on the eastern edge of Oakridge, citing significant impacts blasting and industrial operations would have on resident deer and elk herds. The ruling was a major victory for Oakridge residents and local businesses who have long opposed the gravel mine proposed by Ed King III of King Estate Winery.  
“This ruling is great news for Oakridge.  Now, it’s time for the rest of the out-of-town developers to drop it once and for all,” says Mick Garvin, owner of Deep Woods Distillery, whose business looks out at TV Butte.  “A massive gravel mine, with blasting, crushing and hauling operations for the next 50 years is good for no one here and doesn’t belong on the edge of our town.”

The Appeals Court ruling reversed an earlier Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) ruling. The Court of Appeals weighed various wildlife reports that detailed impacts the proposed mining operation would have on the life cycle of resident deer and elk on TV Butte.  The Court of Appeals agreed with the opponents of the mine that the Lane County Board of Commissioners correctly relied upon Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) testimony about the impacts to deer and elk from the mine.  The decision remands the proceeding back to LUBA to correctly consider ODFW’s concerns.

“This decision was a significant win for land use planning and big game habitat in the county, which would have been destroyed by the proposed mining,” says Lauri Segel with LandWatch Lane County, which works to protect Lane County’s farms, forests, natural areas and open space.
Widespread community opposition to the gravel mine dates back to 2015 when it was first proposed, and in 2021, both Oakridge and nearby Westfir’s city councils unanimously opposed the proposal as bad for livability and the tourism-based economy of the area. 
Petitioners in the case, including a neighborhood group, affected land and business owners, and conservation organizations, praised the ruling.
“Since day 1, the mining applicants have treated Oakridge and its residents like a Third World colony, where they proposed to level a mountain and rake in profits at the expense of human health, the environment, local businesses and cultural sites,” says Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Hopefully, the Appeals Court ruling is the final nail in the coffin for this cockamamie proposal.”
Local businesses that provide hospitality and rely on tourism and outdoor recreation in the Oakridge/Westfir area have also roundly rejected the proposed mine as bad for business.
“We are deeply relieved to not be facing mountaintop removal mining on Oakridge’s iconic skyline,” says McKenzie Bowerman of the Oakridge Bike Shop. “It is contrary to the hard work we have done to support this beautiful recreational hub enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts. Many thanks to the neighbors, community members and advocacy groups that stood up to this intrusion.”
In 2014, a University of Oregon study found that mountain bike tourism brought $2.3 million to $4.9 million into Oakridge’s economy annually. Travel Oregon recently granted the City of Oakridge $96,000 for signage to direct visitors to recreation opportunities in the area. Every year, tens of thousands of people flock to Oakridge and the surrounding Willamette National Forest for its renowned mountain biking, fishing, skiing, camping, and vacationing. 

Nearby Oakridge residents and businesses have also worried about the mine degrading air quality from toxic silica dust produced by gravel mining and crushing, contaminating groundwater, increasing traffic with more than 80 round-trip, gravel trucks traveling in and out of Oakridge every day according to documents submitted by the applicants, and destroying cultural sites.

TV Butte is considered an ancestral home of the Chakgeenkni-Tufti band of Molalla Indians, part of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Tribal members have written about and testified to Lane County Commissioners how the mine would endanger artifacts and burial sites at a historic Indian village on TV Butte.

The Petitioners in the case included Save TV Butte, LandWatch Lane County, Cascadia Wildlands, Linda McMahon, Tim Caughlin, Keegan Coughlin, Jenny Caughlin, Kevin Matthews, Michael Garvin, and Patricia Beard, and are represented by attorneys Sean Malone and Charles W. Woodward IV of Eugene.