Looming threat of copper mine increasing interest
Colin Cooney / Montana Field Coordinator, Trout Unlimited
firstname.lastname@example.org / (406) 465-1023
(March 31, 2016) Helena, Mont. Anglers are clamoring to get a chance to float the storied Smith, Montanas only permitted river.
This year the Smith River saw application numbers rise this year from 8,096 to 9,377. That increase mirrors past growth. By comparison, 2013 saw only 6,662 applications. Each year, about 75 percent of successful applicants are Montanans.
The reputation of the Smith has been growing rapidly as headlines have spread about a proposed foreign-owned copper mine being placed at its headwaters. Tintina Resources was recently informed their permit to mine near and underneath Sheep Creek, one of the most important tributaries of the Smith both for instream flow and spawning habitat, was missing important chunks of information. An independent expert review commissioned by Montana Trout Unlimited of the permit showed vital information missing from the application.
This is a special place. People want to see it as it is, said Colin Cooney, Montana Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. When you threaten to put a copper mine at the headwaters of a rivers most important tributary people start thinking Well, I better go see it before its gone. And with Montanas mining history, that thinking is completely understandable. We dont want to see the disasters that have happened with other mines happen here. That kind of ending for a river this important is not a scenario we are willing to accept.
The threat of the copper mine has meant big business to places like Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, a leader in the fly fishing travel industry that specializes both in international and local fly fishing trips. Jake Wells, U.S. West Program Director for the company has seen interest in floating the Smith explode.
Over the past year Yellowdog and our partner, Montana Flyfishing Connection, have seen a definite increase in interested individuals and groups wanting to book trips on the Smith River, Wells said. Many people who call us dont realize that the guiding season really only lasts from about mid-May through mid-July. So due to the threat of the proposed mine and very limited availability, the upcoming 2016 season filled up well into last year, and dates for 2017 are already filling up.
The ongoing process has also been of concern to local landowners.
“The Smith River is essential to our economy and way of life,” said Mike Bushly, landowner along the Smith. “We have nothing against mining in the right spots, but this location is too dangerous a gamble for my comfort.”
Cooney added, Tintina keeps telling us they can do it right from the start, that they are a modern mine and will not harm the river. Given what weve seen so far, from this company, from the industry as a whole, thats not a bet Im willing to take. And I would venture to guess thats not a bet those 9,000 plus people looking for a permit are willing to take either.
Additional Content Available
Smith River Memories
Four minute video recounting experiences of Montanans on the Smith River
Expert Review of Tintinas Mine Permit
Independent panel of experts review permit application for Black Butte Mine and find substantial flaws
American Fly Fishing Trade Association’s Smith Economic Numbers
A look at jobs, angler days and dollars generated by the Smith River.
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Photo credits go to Trout Unlimited.
Password: Smith River
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