BOISE — On Friday, May 22, the Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, and the Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club filed a formal objection with the U.S. Forest Service regarding the agency’s determination that a mining exploration project in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest would have no significant impact on the environment. The project is located in the headwaters of the Jarbidge River near Jarbidge, Nevada.
The conservation groups state that the Forest Service failed to adequately analyze the potential impacts of the project in its Environmental Analysis (EA). The 24,000-acre project area, adjacent to the Jarbidge Wilderness, includes the headwaters of the Congressionally-designated Wild and Scenic Jarbidge River and its tributaries, and portions of four Inventoried Roadless Areas. The Jarbidge watershed also supports the southernmost population of federally-listed as threatened bull trout.
John Robison, ICL’s public lands director, said, “The Jarbidge-Bruneau river system is a national treasure. We know that mining activities can harm downstream users. We are weighing in because mine exploration activities in the headwaters need closer public scrutiny.”
In April 2020, the Forest Service released the EA of the potentially detrimental effects from the project and approved a Plan of Operation by the owners, international mining company Newcrest Resources, Inc. The plan consists of a 12-year permit that only lists the first year’s proposed activities. These include, but are not limited to, construction of staging areas, 22 drilling sites, nearly 6 miles of new roads, and a stream crossing in critical bull trout spawning habitat.
“To greenlight a project of this scale, with so many uncertainties and potential environmental concerns, isn’t just a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act process, but is completely irresponsible,” said IRU Executive Director Nic Nelson. “To do so in an area as spectacular and beloved as the Jarbidge is unconscionable.”
ICL, Idaho Rivers United, and the Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club recommend the Forest Service either conduct a more comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement to fully incorporate the potential unknown impacts to the project area, or shorten the permit’s duration to an appropriate level supported by EA results.