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About OHA

OHA is a grassroots conservation organization that has worked to protect the environment in the Okanogan Highlands of north-central Washington since 1992. Our work began on Buckhorn Mountain, where we stopped an open-pit gold mine, the “Crown Jewel Project,” in January 2000. In 2002, Crown Resources proposed an underground mine on the same ore body. OHA appealed the proposal and continued to advocate for the protection of the highlands environment. Ultimately, in 2008, the political, legal, and economic situation led to OHA’s decision to enter into negotiations with Crown/Kinross. The agreement between OHA and the company meant that an underground mine would be developed on Buckhorn, but OHA would have better access to the mine site and oversight process. The agreement also stated that OHA would receive funds that would enable us to monitor mining activities and implement mitigation projects in the Okanogan Highlands. Since then, OHA has created robust wetland restoration and natural history education programs that serve the local communities in northern Okanogan County. We partner with organizations from the local to the national level and work to engage people of all ages. OHA is 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

The Mission:

OHA’s mission is to encourage and support education and public participation in decisions involving the integrity, sustainability, and prosperity of our community and the environment. OHA fosters conservation of natural resources and takes action to prevent environmental degradation.

The Vision:

OHA is dedicated to protecting the Okanogan Highlands environment.

We believe that our greatest asset is the natural landscape that surrounds us.

We envision:

  • The health, beauty, and integrity of the ecosystems protected for future generations

  • Pure water, a basic necessity of life, safeguarded and used wisely

  • Sustainable multiple use of public lands

  • Land-use implemented in ways that improve the health of people and the environment

  • Stable local economic growth that is based on wise stewardship of the land and water and sustainable industry

  • An increasingly diverse economy, e.g. recreation, small businesses, retirement and service income, sustainable forest products and greater variety in farming

  • A community that appreciates the natural world, and demonstrates that appreciation by making choices and taking action to protect nature.

The Place:

The Okanogan Highlands are commonly known as the hills and mountains rising east of the Okanogan River, in the northernmost parts of Okanogan County, extending north into Canada. Waters from the Highlands flow toward the Okanogan and Kettle Rivers. The diverse ecology of the Okanogan Highlands makes this area unique in Washington State. The Okanogan Highlands are home to a wide array of plant and wildlife species, including several rare, sensitive, and endangered species. It continues to be a favorite place for hunting, fishing, hiking, birding, and many other outdoor recreation activities. The landscape is tranquil mix of scattered homes with farming and ranching intermixed with forests and grasslands. Aspen and conifer forests, spruce bogs, and marshes blend with dry grassy slopes and meadows resplendent with wildflowers.

OHA monitors water quality at the now-closed gold mine on Buckhorn Mountain. Buckhorn is located on the historic “North Half” of the Colville Indian Reservation in North Central Washington, just south of the Canadian border on the Okanogan National Forest. Five perennial creeks (Bolster, Gold, Ethel, Marias and Nicholson) that originate on Buckhorn Mountain flow into two basins (Myers and Toroda Creeks) before flowing into the Kettle River in Canada and eventually into the the Columbia River.

The Threat:

Shortsighted industrialization, unsustainable resource extraction, and development threaten the natural beauty, wildlife habitat, economic diversity, and quality of life in the Okanogan Highlands. The health of aquatic and wildlife habitat on Buckhorn is threatened by contaminated waters and the privatization of public land. What was once National Forest land has been patented out of public ownership and turned over to a mining company, resulting in the loss of multiple use opportunities and increasing potential for future development that could further degrade habitat.

The Buckhorn Mine continues to contaminate groundwater emanating from Buckhorn Mountain in violation of The Department of Ecology’s discharge permit. Regulatory agencies responsible for controlling pollution have failed to hold Crown/Kinross accountable for permit violations, instead allowing them to continue with impunity. The mining company could leave the water contaminated, and with an inadequate surety bond, there is no guarantee that the issues would be resolved. The public could be left to pay the cost to clean up environmental damage left by the gold industry. (Details on how the Buckhorn mine is adversely affecting water quality can be found in the Mine Monitoring section of this website.)

Water resources throughout the highlands have been impacted by land management practices that degrade water and soil quality and increase sedimentation of waterways. Some logging and grazing practices do not adequately protect streams, springs, and seeps. Some homesite development methods impact waterways, promote the spread of weeds, and fragment wildlife habitat. Together, these issues threaten the health of highland ecosystems.


  • Shortsighted industrialization of our community could shatter the serenity of the highlands for residents and visitors.
  • Water, soil, and air could be contaminated by dust, acid mine drainage, and heavy metal toxins.
  • The health of fish, wildlife, and vegetation on Buckhorn are threatened.
  • Mine shafts are being blasted into a dewatered aquafer.



  • Senior water rights could be impaired.
  • Public land is privatized and results in the loss of multiple use opportunities.
  • Mining companies get rich, yet pay no royalties for extractions of wealth.
  • The public is left to pay the cost to clean up environmental damage left by the gold industry.

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