Bates scores high on green issues

State Sen. Alan Bates received high marks from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters for his environmental stance on dredge-mining issues.

The Medford Democrat will receive the Perseverance Award in the League's 2013 Environmental Scorecard for the Oregon Legislature, which he will share with Rep. Shemia Fagan, D-Clackamas/Multnomah. Shemia received her award for her efforts to improve sidewalk safety. Reason for Fagan's award clarified.

The league on Thursday announced its list of legislators who received awards for their efforts in leading conservation bills.

Bates received an 89 percent rating from the league, closely followed by Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, who scored 83 percent.

Other local legislators didn't fare as well.

Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, and Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, each received 17 percent. Both voted against limitations on dredge mining. Sen. Herman Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass, scored 0 percent.

Bates and Fagan received the extra recognition for championing Senate Bill 838.

"It was not a simple situation," said Bates, a fly-fisherman. "We just wanted to put some reasonable limitations on dredge mining."

Bates said surrounding states have virtually cut off dredge mining, so the dredge miners came to Oregon.

"Basically, they came to Southern Oregon and the Rogue River," Bates said. "That's where the gold is."

He said the number of permits jumped from a couple hundred to 2,500.

Now, the limit is 850 permits, and those with the oldest permits, mostly Oregonians, get preferential positions.

"I think we were very lenient," Bates said.

Mining impacts on the river will be monitored over a two-year period to make sure the dredging isn't having a detrimental effect, he said.

League spokeswoman Christy Splitt said Bates received pressure and threats from those involved in dredge-mining.

She said that Bates noticed the impact on rivers firsthand as a fisherman.

He became more involved when he heard from local small businesses that the increase in dredging was effecting the local tourism industry.

Splitt said Bates worked with Jackson County groups and individuals to find a solution and raise the issue.

The scorecard, which started in 1983 and lists how legislators voted on key conservation bills, can be found at

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on Twitter at @reporterdm.

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