For decades, Montana Audubon has championed the values that our state’s healthy rivers and streams provide to wildlife and human communities. Comprising less than four-percent of our state’s area, river and stream-based ecosystems provide critical habitat for over half of Montana’s breeding bird species and over one third of non-game species of concern. However, about 10,000 miles of this fragile habitat contain heavy metals or acidic pollution directly caused by inappropriate mining operations. This damage is long-lasting with Montana taxpayers frequently left with the cleanup bill, while birds and other wildlife are perpetually exposed to toxic levels of arsenic, lead, and mercury pollution.
During the 2015 and 2017 legislative sessions, opportunities to strengthen criteria upon which the Department of Environmental Quality could deny a mining permit, failed. New mines with the potential to cause long term harm therefore continue to be issued permits (The Black Butte mine project located on a major tributary of the Smith River, may receive a draft Environmental Impact Statement this fall.)
To protect wildlife-rich streamside habitat and as part of our River Initiative, Montana Audubon has committed to support Initiative 186, also known as, “YES to responsible mining”. This ballot measure is a clear and sensible directive granting the Montana Department of Environmental Quality the authority to deny new hard-rock mine permits if reclamation plans do not contain measures sufficient to prevent the pollution of water without the need for perpetual treatment. If enacted, I-186 would only affect new mines: existing operations would be unaffected.
Over the past several months, the initiative garnered over 46,000 signatures, easily qualifying it for the November election ballot. The power to vote YES for clean water is now in our hands! For more information, visit www.yeson186.org. If you vote by mail, your ballots have likely just arrived. For Montana’s water, wildlife and human communities, be sure to VOTE YES on I-186 this November!
Paid for by Montana Audubon, 324 Fuller Ave, N-#5, Helena, MT 59601