Let’s Keep the Smith River Healthy

Its economic output from recreation shouldn’t be discounted or imperiled

By Katie Marsonette

A healthy future for Montana will require a balance between sustainable natural resource extraction and protection of our lands and waters. Incredible rivers crisscross our Flathead Valley, and for me, healthy rivers are a critical element of a healthy Montana. I recently saw that the Black Butte Copper mine, adjacent to the Smith River near White Sulphur Springs, received a favorable court decision that will allow their mine development plans to move forward. The mine’s owner, Sandfire Resources, indicates they are committed to environmental protection and to the community.

I’m hoping we can hold up Sandfire’s operations at the Black Butte mine in future years as an example of how to extract resources without impacting surrounding land and water negatively. But there are several hundred other potential mining claims on public lands in this area, and additional mining activity along the Smith River would likely put the river at risk and imperil its water quality, fish, and wildlife. I don’t think we should take the risk of allowing additional mining on public lands to operate along the Smith River. It’s too special to risk. And its economic output from recreation shouldn’t be discounted or imperiled.

Please join me in asking the U.S. Forest Service to initiate a mineral withdrawal process to protect the public lands within the Smith River Watershed from future mining. This withdrawal process won’t impact the proposed operations of the Black Butte Copper mine, and it will go a long way towards making sure the Smith River remains clean and a favorite place for Montanans from all of the state to enjoy a few backcountry river days.

Katie Marsonette