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New Short Film Showcases Efforts to Stop Illegal Mining Operation in Gorge

New Short Film Showcases Efforts to Stop Illegal Mining Operation in Gorge
Screenshot from "When the Hard Work Begins." (Brady Holden/Holden Films)
August 3, 2022
Categorie(s): Latest News

New Short Film Showcases Community-Led Efforts to Stop Illegal Mining Operation in the Columbia Gorge

Co-produced by Holden Films and Friends of the Columbia Gorge, "When the Hard Work Begins" (a 12-minute short film) will premiere online Aug. 3.

Press Contacts

  • Burt Edwards, communications director, Friends of the Columbia Gorge | 703.861.8237 (Cell) | (email)
  • Stan Hall, digital communications manager, Friends of the Columbia Gorge | 503.307.3228 (Cell) | (email)

PORTLAND, OR – In May 2022, after over five years of efforts between community partners, a transformed Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge was reopened to the public. Reconnecting 965 acres of floodplain to the refuge, the effort marked the completion of one of the largest efforts to restore wetland, cold-water resting habitat for migrating and juvenile salmon on the Columbia River. Yet, just a stone’s throw away from the refuge is an illegal gravel mine that has been at the center of a struggle to end one of the largest and longest-running land use violations in the history of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Co-produced by Holden Film and Friends of the Columbia Gorge, "When the Hard Work Begins" chronicles efforts by Gorge community members and Friends' legal team to protect the wildlife refuge and the surrounding community from the effects of unpermitted gravel mining. The 12-minute short film will be released online in a special, live streaming premiere at Noon (Pacific) on Wednesday, Aug. 3 via Friends' Vimeo channel and available on demand after at

"While the Columbia Gorge is loved and cherished by millions of people across the country, it is the local community members who stood up to challenge this illegal mining,” said Kevin Gorman, executive director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge. "The mining not only threatens the wildlife refuge, it threatens their homes and way of life," Gorman added.

During a brief mining campaign in the mid-1990s at the Zimmerly property—located in southeast Clark County, Washington, just outside of Washougal—millions of gallons of sediment-laden mining runoff was discharged into nearby Gibbons Creek and Steigerwald Lake, destroying more than a mile of endangered salmon habitat and harming resources in the wildlife refuge. Following this environmental catastrophe, mining was discontinued at the site for more than twenty years. In late 2017, the Nutter Corporation began illegally mining, crushing, and hauling gravel at the Zimmerly site without seeking the required land use permits and approvals.

After more than two years of legal efforts by Friends and community partners, mining at the Zimmerly property was halted in 2020, following decisions by the Columbia River Gorge Commission and Clark County Hearing Examiner. Legal proceedings on the future of mining at the site are ongoing.

Filmed over the course of early 2022, award-winning independent documentary filmmaker Brady Holden worked with Friends staff to talk with Gorge community members who have been on the front lines of efforts to stop the illegal mining. The film also features interviews with Friends Senior Attorney Nathan Baker (Friends' lead attorney for the case) and Friends Board Vice Chair Buck Parker, a longtime Hood River resident and former executive director of Earthjustice.

"Filming with Friends of the Columbia Gorge has always been an honor, as the Gorge is one of the places that I feel most connected to in the Pacific Northwest," said documentary filmmaker Brady Holden. "In shooting 'Where the Hard Work Begins,' I was equally fascinated by the complicated legal efforts that go into protecting our favorite places to explore," Holden added.

The 12-minute short film will premiere via a special, live streaming virtual event at Noon (Pacific) on Wednesday, August 3 on both Vimeo and YouTube and will be available on demand after at A trailer for the film is available at: or at An embargoed version of the short film is available to members of the press upon request.

Watch the short film

More about Holden Films

Brady Holden (he/him/his) is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker. Brady's work has appeared on PBS FRONTLINE, CNN’s Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain, NPR, Outside Magazine, YouTube RED, Comedy Central, Bloomberg, Investigation Discovery, HGTV as well as in National Park Service visitor centers.

In 2016, Brady established his company Holden Films which produces documentary films and video content for a wide variety of companies and nonprofits, environmental organizations, state and federal agencies, institutions, and lifestyle brands.

Clients and partners include The Nature Conservancy, Society of Ecological Restoration, The Land Trust Alliance, Columbia Land Trust, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, North Coast Land Conservancy and Wallowa Land Trust. Brady’s film “Pho the People” won the “Best of the Northwest short” award at the 2021 Bend Film Festival. Brady and Holden Films are based in Portland, Oregon. Learn more: or watch more:

Additional Resources & Background Information

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Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a conservation organization with over 5,000 members dedicated to protecting, preserving, and stewarding the Columbia Gorge for future generations. Friends maintains an office in Portland, Oregon, as well as in two Gorge towns—Hood River, Oregon, and Washougal, Washington.