The Idaho Conservation League is pleased to have reached a settlement with the U.S. Forest Service to protect water quality in East Boulder Creek, a tributary to the Salmon River.

An out-of-state miner was already doing exploratory mining in a wetland adjacent to the creek on the Salmon-Challis National Forest when ICL filed litigation against the national forest. As a result of the settlement, the Forest Service will ensure that additional reclamation of the site restores and protects water quality, wetlands and other key wildlife habitat.

In particular, the settlement puts into place additional safeguards to make sure that

  • Roads and stream crossings are properly restored
  • Regular monitoring occurs as the site stabilizes
  • Any future industrial mining activity is carefully planned to avoid water pollution and scars on the land.

We appreciate the Forest Service being open to these changes.

Under Forest Service rules, small-scale mining exploration can occur with relatively modest environmental review. Under a “categorical exclusion,” the Forest Service can approve up to one year of mining exploration as long as certain criteria are met. In this case, ICL argued that a more thorough environmental analysis was required-because the project was located in a roadless area, in a wetland, and in habitat for endangered species (bull trout, steelhead trout and others).

In the end, the Forest Service took steps to reduce the mine’s impact and committed to ensuring in-depth review when-and if-the miner applies to conduct further exploration or development of a mine.

With gold continuing to trade at over $1,000 an ounce, dozens of similar mining exploration projects have been proposed across the state. ICL closely  monitors these proposals to ensure that water quality and other sensitive resources are protected.