Camper leads Smith River mine outreach effort

Many avid Smith River floaters know of the threat posed by the proposed Black Butte copper mine, but there are still a few who don’t have a clue. So Montana Trout Unlimited member Ezra Ginzberg has taken on the role of teacher.

Since the middle of May, Ginzberg has camped at the Camp Baker put-in for five days a week so he could talk to every boater about the proposed mine and explain what it could potentially do to the Smith River if its waste rock pollutes Sheep Creek. Since Sheep Creek about doubles the flow of the Smith River where it comes in at Camp Baker, floaters would no doubt notice problems before they even launched on the river. If the mine depletes the groundwater, streamflow will diminish, making the boating season even shorter. If it pollutes the water with acid drainage, fishermen can kiss the trout goodbye.

Ginzberg said he’s been pleased to find that most people are at least aware of the proposed mine, and most are opposed to it. But he still has to enlighten a few, so it’s good to have him out there, providing information and answering questions. For the most part, Ginzberg said, people are in a good mood, excited to be floating the river, so they are happy to talk to him. But he has run into a few who want the mine and that discussion doesn’t go very far. Ginzberg just nods and tells the boaters to have a good trip.

Ginzberg is making the best of his job until it ends in mid-July, although hanging out at Camp Baker isn’t exactly tough duty. He’s getting pretty good at cooking steaks on a camp stove, and this week, he finally gets his turn at floating the Smith River canyons with friends.

If you’re passing through, say hello and give him some thanks. The more people know about the mine, the bigger the spotlight that can shine on its operation.