Protect the Smith River

The river is now threatened by a mining operation near the headwaters of the main tributary

By Amy Weeks

The Smith River is a popular, well-renowned, sought after Montana experience. The Smith River possesses invaluable beauty and environmental significance. It is the only river in Montana that requires a permit to float. This year, 12,452 applicants applied for the lottery permit and only 978 float permits were awarded. There is one put-in point, and the one take-out point is 59 miles downstream. Visitors enjoy a four-day float trip through remote, limestone canyons. 

The Smith River is now threatened by a mining operation near the headwaters of the main tributary. An Australian mining company plans to extract copper near Sheep Creek, the main source of water for the Smith River. This company has been buying up public leases of land and claiming forest lands. The remnant mine tailings would pollute and decrease the quality of water. The Forest Service could withdraw mineral rights within the Smith River area and thereby protect the river. 

The Smith River is a cherished natural resource that provides vital habitat for countless species of wildlife and offers endless recreational opportunities for locals and visitors alike. Its pristine waters are a source of solace and inspiration for outdoor enthusiasts, fishermen, and nature lovers. 

It is imperative that we take action now to safeguard this invaluable asset for future generations of citizens and wildlife. The Forest Service should withdraw mineral rights from areas mining would impact. 

Amy Weeks
Columbia Falls