Montana’s Smith River is a remarkable place. Located in west-central Montana, the Smith River drainage is a location of great recreational, ecological and cultural value. While most of the land in the Smith River drainage is privately owned, the U.S. Forest Service and State of Montana own the balance. Public access to the river is limited. It is the only river in Montana that has a lottery and requires a recreational permit to float the corridor.
The Smith River is under threat. In 2014, a foreign owned mining company, Sandfire Resources, Inc. applied for a copper mine exploration permit on a major headwater tributary to the Smith River, Sheep Creek. Sandfire proposes to mine in a sulphide ore body, which makes this mine a high risk for producing acid mine drainage. Acid mine drainage is environmentally devastating and requires permanent water treatment. In March 2019, Montana DEQ released a Final EIS which intends to permit the mine. Montana Trout Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, and a coalition of partner organizations are now examining legal recourse to this decision.
The EIS public comment period is now closed to official comments, we encourage friends of the Smith to send letters to the editor of your local newspaper, or a Montana paper if you live outside of Montana. You can also write to the MT Governor Steve Bullock and the Department of Environmental Quality. Follow this link for talking points and guidance for making your letter more impactful, as well as contact information for the Governor’s Office and DEQ.