Editor’s note: ICL’s public lands intern Jenna Narducci reports on a recent field trip to the proposed CuMo mining project. Click on the photos to get a larger view.

On a recent staff field trip to the proposed CuMo Company molybdenum mining project, we stopped at the intersection of Highway 21 and Grimes Creek, a popular spot for recreation. We watched people and dogs play in the creek as we cooled our feet in the water before resuming our travels up the road.

We got distracted yet again when we spotted a juvenile moose walking along Grimes Creek. We stopped the car and I jumped out, eagerly racing to get a picture (heeding a request to "please don’t provoke an attack"). Despite keeping our distance, the moose fled up the hill opposite from us. It was my first time seeing a moose in person and I could barely breathe from excitement.

This was during the record-long heat wave that rolled through the Northwest. It was easy to forget the purpose of our trip as we escaped from the heat and the bustle of the city. As we got further into the forest, the landscape was an interesting mix of abandoned mine camps and beautiful scenery. We made another stop to admire the work of some busy beavers and puzzle over long-unused equipment.

It wasn’t until we reached sections of Grimes Creek that had been dredged that I woke up from what had felt like a pleasure cruise through the beautiful Boise National Forest. One person described the shorelines of these dredged sections as a moonscape and I have to agree.

Mining permeates Idaho’s history-the discovery of gold and the resultant population boom eventually led to Lincoln designating Idaho as a new territory in 1863. The rivers and mountains of Idaho proved to be full of precious resources that we have been extracting to this day-and it shows. Our rivers have been combed through, destroying fish habitat, and mountains have been leveled, impacting wildlife, soils and other incalculable values.

Public opinion in the West is shifting, though. Many are beginning to consider other resources as even more valuable-resources such as clean water, pristine forests and wildlife habitat. Companies like Thompson Creek Metals and the CuMo Company continue to insist that mining is Idaho’s future but, as Tim Heffernan of High Country News points out, the "Intermountain West, whose mines supplied the raw materials for every economic revolution of the 20th century-copper for electrification, coal for industrialization, uranium for the Atomic Age-faces something completely unexpected in the green and digital 21st: the prospect of a comprehensive bust."

All across the West mines are floundering. Molycorp, the only U.S. producer of rare earths (the definition of "rare" being used loosely), recently declared bankruptcy. Thompson Creek Metals recently closed one of their molybdenum mines due to market weakness, and had previously mothballed their Idaho Clayton mine. Despite this, CuMoCo is still pushing to establish an open pit molybdenum mine in Boise’s backyard. They are willing to put our clean water at risk by polluting sensitive streams. They are willing to put wildlife at risk by degrading thousands of acres of habitat. They are willing to disregard the satisfaction and enjoyment derived from recreating in the Boise National Forest-for instance, seeing a moose up close for the first time (and surviving).

More and more Idahoans are recognizing the value of protecting the environment instead of resorting to old tricks. We know how important it is to protect and restore our lands, not tear them apart. Most importantly, we want to preserve the right of future generations to explore and enjoy the land.

-Jenna Narducci, public lands intern