Stumping for Montana's Smith

By Ezra Ginzberg,

This summer, I had the great privilege of working for Trout Unlimited at  Camp Baker, the only public put-in to Montana’s famed Smith River. Before my time on the Smith, I was unaware how important and special this river is to Montana. . Even before I had the chance to float the river, I could tell how important the Smith was by the passion and enthusiasm the floaters showed for this special place. Talking to long time Smith floaters, I was able to experience the float vicariously through their stories and memories. I felt like I knew the river so well, it was just an added bonus I got to experience it for myself.

At Camp Baker, I spent my days talking to people from all walks of life, and my message was always the same; The Smith River is being threatened by a copper mine proposed by Tintina Resources of Canada. The overwhelming reaction towards TU’s campaign was very positive and the majority of people, who knew about the proposed mine, were highly opposed to the project. I took time to inform those who weren’t aware of the issue, which to my surprise was quite a few.  Most of the uniformed people were visiting from out of state, however, I also ran into Montanans who had no idea about the proposed mine.

The river was by far the greatest tool for educating floaters. It was the best way for me to communicate the  concerns TU has about this project and why we are involved in this campaign. I was able to show floaters the importance of Sheep Creek and make it clear for them to see how vital Sheep Creek is for the flows and health of the Smith River. Being able to witness people grow to understand why a copper mine would be so detrimental to the Smith, was both fulfilling and satisfying.

My fondest memory from my time working on the Smith was my impromptu trip down the river. Early July, when the number of floaters had plummeted due to low water levels, I met a group of two families from Helena as well as a veteran Smith guide who had been invited to go along with them for his vacation. I hit it off with the group the night before their float, and the next morning when I got up to make coffee, they invited me to join them on their float. They assured me they had plenty of room and food to spare. With work as slow as it was, I decided to take my business on the road and enjoyed my second trip down the river. On this trip I was able to communicate with floaters on the river as well as make lasting friendships with those I floated with.

The time I was able to spend floating the Smith, was 9 days I will never forget. From the high cliff walls to the rolling hills, I have never experienced a place like the Smith. My time on the river only motivated me to  work harder to prevent any harm from coming to this sustainable, precious resource.



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