Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Alternative newspaper in Oregon goes far afield to report about rural environmental issues

Eugene Weekly readers are used to seeing news about Eugene nightlife and the University of Oregon in the alternative newspaper, but it also covers the surrounding rural area, unlike most alt-weeklies. Reporter Camilla Mortensen went 20 miles southeast of the city to rural Dexter for a three-part series about the town's struggle against an illegal gravel-mining operation. For over a year, Lost Creek Rock Products has logged and mined Parvin Butte, a natural Dexter landmark, without proper permits. Mortensen says in an e-mail that the paper is filling a hole left in rural environmental coverage after budget cuts at traditional papers forced those stories to the back burner. (Mortensen photo)

Mortensen said Eugene Weekly's owners, Art and Anita Johnson and Fred Taylor, former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, "have always had a strong environmental focus and with cutbacks at other papers, both The Register Guard (Eugene's daily newspaper) and around the state, there's a lot of rural and environmental issues that aren't getting attention, like this mine." She also reported on a proposed uranium mine about 200 miles from Eugene, saying "It's in a very rural area where it just wasn't going to get newspaper coverage so we decided I should go ahead and write about it so it didn't fall through the cracks and was a done-deal before people knew about it."

Parvin Butte was slated to become a gravel mine, though residents who live within yards of it didn't know this until mining had already begun. Mortensen reports in the first part of the series that Lost Creek Rock Products obtained a logging permit from the Oregon Department of Forestry and a mining permit from the Oregon Department of Geology and Minerals but failed to go through the Lane County site review process that allows the public to comment on the proposal.

The second part of the series focused on efforts to protect Lost Creek, which "is unobstructed by dams and offers some of the last remaining habitat for spring Chinook in the Middle Fork basin," and runs through the property being mined. Finally, Mortensen wrote about the state Department of Geology and Mineral Industries permit for the site and reported that Lane County officials issued a notice of violation to mine operators, though production continues. She also reports the fines levied against the mining company. Most recently, county officials asked the state to revoke the permit.

After Mortensen's first story was published, The Register Guard reported on the mine. That article can be found here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Camilla is the coolest!