We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Black Butte Copper Project. MTU also appreciates the time constraints that state law compels upon the DEQ to complete this DEIS. Those constraints are one reason for the many problems and gaps in the DEIS. Regardless of those constraints and the deficiencies within this DEIS, it’s clear that the risks this mine poses to water resources warrants our full support of the “No Action” alternative.
On June 30 we urged folks to send us their Clean Water Stories. Below is one of those great submissions! We urge you to keep those stories coming in. We’ll send you some sweet MTU gear in exchange. Submit your stories and photos to [email protected] we’d also love to see your photos on Instagram #30daysforcleanwater. For more information on our plea for stories read our executive director, David Brooks, post on the the importance of headwater streams.
The Pursuit of Happiness By Joshua Bergan
Headwaters are important. To me, to generations before and after me, and to the fish and wildlife that live on the vital sustenance that headwaters provide.
Recently, my wife and I have spent most of our summer free-time hiking up to and fishing Montana’s mountain lakes, many of which are the headwaters for streams that feed the large rivers. These lakes have become a part of us. I thought that once our project was complete, we’d be happy to get back to floating and fishing big rivers, but that’s not the case. We cannot wait to spend more time at these headwaters.
These pristine mountain lakes are spectacular. They often sport clear teal water that you can see 20-feet into and host native cutthroat trout and arctic grayling – the same species that Silas Goodrich caught on the Corps of Discovery, and that sustained people for hundreds of years before that. These fish have only a small fraction of their original places left, where anglers like my wife and I can find them. Clean , healthy headwaters are important to us.
Aside from the well-documented significance these sanctuaries provide for native plants and animals, they provide people like us with a refuge, a reason to get exercise and get healthy, some peace, memories, photo-ops and ultimately, the pursuit of happiness.
It’s true that there is some economic opportunity up there. We need the minerals and metals that are buried near these important waterways and we all need to make a living. We need to balance these things with peoples’ right to recreation, low-impact economic opportunity, and the plants and animals that rely on these places that have the same right to exist as humans do. It is my strongly held belief that we do not need those minerals, metals, and monies enough that it’s worth destroying these headwaters.
Headwaters are too important to us all to allow protections to lapse.
Montana Trout Unlimited has an assignment for you. Go spend time on your nearest or dearest headwater stream in Montana. Take photographs (selfies are OK). Reflect on why that place is important to you, your family, and your friends, including those with fins, fur, or wings. Maybe you have clamored along Hidden Gem Creek to where it bubbles up through alluvium and begins flowing under deep shade and over moss-draped stones every year on your birthday just to be sure it, and you, are still fully alive. Maybe you’ve taken up the Tenkara rod and savor angling by stealth and simplicity. We need your photos and stories to help save the headwaters you value.
Whatever your story, wherever your special small water, we want to hear about it. Feel free to let your secret spots remain so by giving them nicknames. But know that disguising their names makes them no less vulnerable to Trump administration rollbacks in regulations that protect clean water and healthy habitat.
In his first 100 days POTUS Donald Trump signed an Executive Order asking the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to consider revoking the Clean Water Rule (CWR). The rule is meant to extend Clean Water Act protection to “ephemeral” or “intermittent” streams and many wetlands, which, in ontological terms, are the birthplaces and infants of our coldwater trout waters in Montana and, truthfully, all fisheries. Statistically speaking, the rule, when implemented, will apply to 60 percent of the stream mileage in the U.S. and roughly 20 million acres of wetlands. After years of Congressional and court haggling over whether or not to protect the precious beginnings of America’s water resources from pollution and dismemberment by granting them the same clean water standards set for larger, navigable waters, the Clean Water Rule was finalized in 2015. Eighty-seven percent of the one million public comments on the rule supported it and 83% of hunters and anglers strongly favor its application to small streams and wetlands.
Passage of CWR is a vital safeguard for all water users. By protecting the source from poisoning and physical destruction, it helps ensure clean drinking, irrigation, stock, and trout waters. While doing so, the rule also includes exceptions so that private landowners can continue to operate ditches, canals, ponds, irrigation systems, and the like for personal or commercial benefit as they have historically, without new water quality regulations. Nonetheless, the Trump administration is pushing to abort the rule and unshackle industry from having to help keep our water clean. Since we care about the health of the water that flows from our taps, grows our crops, slakes our livestock, and is home to our state and national fisheries, we cannot let this happen.
Montana can provide more gorgeous backdrops, and trout-filled snapshots than in any other state. Our personal stories of real places can illustrate that the threat is not abstract, but is real to people, places, professions and wildlife we love. Last week, I toured a $40 million mine restoration site on the headwaters of Montana’s famed Blackfoot River. A decades-long, state-led project to clean up and restore Mike Horse and Bear Trap Creeks has been a key reason that the Blackfoot has bounced back from a century of industrial logging and mining. Today anglers travel from around the globe for a chance at catching native and wild trout on the Blackfoot. Yet, small-scale silver mining continues on “intermittent” stretches of tributaries above the current Mike Horse cleanup site. If the Clean Water Rule disappears, those mine operators will no longer be obligated to care about sending new waves of heavy metals downstream through the meandering creeks that $40 million has brought back to life.
We will use our portfolio of your stories and photos to inspire other states to document their headwaters and to illustrate for the public and politicians what is at stake. If you need another push to get out the door, check out TU President Chris Wood’s tale of raising his kids on the Little Cacapon River in West Virginia, an intermittent stream covered by the CWR. (http://www.tu.org/blog-posts/little-kids-and-small-streams-deserve-the-clean-water-act) So get out there! Please send your stories and photos to [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you.
-from Montana Trout Unlimited’s Spring 2017 Trout Line by David Brooks, executive director