first_imgSEATTLE — Environmentalists are seeking to stop exploratory drilling on forest lands near Mount St. Helens in Washington state as a Canadian company prepares next month to drill more holes to probe for copper, gold and other minerals. Ascot Resources, of Vancouver, B.C., plans to drill on a site within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Skamania County, where it owns mineral rights. The site is about 12 miles northeast of the volcanic crater and partly within the blast zone of the 1980 eruption that killed 57 people.The environmental group Gifford Pinchot Task Force sued in federal court in Tacoma last week to get the U.S. Forest Service to conduct environmental reviews and allow for public comments. It claimed the project could lead to polluted drinking water and loss of wildlife habitat, and interfere with hunting, fishing, backcountry and other recreational uses that draw thousands of visitors to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument each year. “It’s an important public issue, and I think the public deserves the opportunity to comment on it,” said Jessica Walz, conservation director for the Portland-based Gifford Pinchot Task Force, whose opposition to a proposed copper mine in the same area helped derail the project in 2008.Bob Evans, director of Ascot USA, on Tuesday called the lawsuit frivolous.“Ascot’s operation is a small exploration drill program with very limited impact,” he wrote in an emailed response. “Ascot, in consultation with the USFS, has followed best practices to leave virtually no imprint on the environment.”last_img