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Practice has disrupted salmon habitat, conflicted with fishers and others using Oregon rivers.

COURTESY CASCADIA WILDLANDS  - A motorized operation for mining gold from streams, which can mar salmon habitat on pristine rivers. Oregon's 2017 law restricting suction-dredge gold mining in sensitive salmon-bearing waters was upheld on appeal Wednesday, Sept. 12.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a legal challenge to the law, passed as Senate Bill 3.

Suction dredge mining is a type of recreational gold mining that uses gas-powered, floating dredges to suck up the bottoms of rivers. The mining technique can trap and kill fish, smother critical spawning gravel for salmon, and stir up mercury and other toxic metals from historic mining operations. The practice also created conflicts with anglers, paddlers and others enjoying Oregon rivers, such as the Umpqua and Rogue.

"This victory comes as a huge relief," said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands, in a prepared statement. "It would have been ridiculous to let gold mining in salmon-spawning habitat proceed unregulated after all we have invested as a state in salmon recovery."

A coalition of conservation and fishing groups joined the case to help defend the Oregon law, including Rogue Riverkeeper, Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Oregon Coast Alliance, Cascadia Wildlands, Native Fish Society, and the Center for Biological Diversity. The groups were represented by the Eugene-based Western Environmental Law Center and the Colorado-based Western Mining Action Project.

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