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Sunday, February 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outdoors blog

Mining in the Cabinets: It’s a question of wilderness

S-R Outdoors editor Rich Landers and his dog, Scout, accompanied Jim Costello, center, to the Rock Lake area of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness to survey areas that could be impacted by proposed mines.  The Montanore and Rock Creek mines would drill from outside wilderness boundaries into ore deposits underneath the Northwestern Montana wilderness area. (Rich Landers)
S-R Outdoors editor Rich Landers and his dog, Scout, accompanied Jim Costello, center, to the Rock Lake area of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness to survey areas that could be impacted by proposed mines. The Montanore and Rock Creek mines would drill from outside wilderness boundaries into ore deposits underneath the Northwestern Montana wilderness area. (Rich Landers)

PUBLIC LANDS -- I'm getting mixed reviews in comments and emails about my Sunday Outdoors story: Not-so-wild wilderness: Mining proposals threaten Cabinet Mountains streams, lakes and grizzlies.

Some people say I featured only wilderness activists and that there's really nothing to worry about regarding the mining proposals surrounding the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in northwestern Montana.

Besides, we all need the metals miners extract, they point out.

Roger.

But the point of the story, and the sidebar focused on the impacts of the mining on grizzly bears, is that while state and federal agencies are poring over mounds of documents on the impacts of each mine proposal, no agency appears to be sizing up the CUMULATIVE IMPACTS of both new mine proposals plus the re-starting of the existing Troy Mine plus the proposals for more motorized vehicle access in the Kootenai National Forest management plan.

The sum of these threats warrants public attention, hence the story.

The Forest Service declined to answer my prepared questions that focused on cumulative impacts.

"The process seems to overlook the wilderness as a whole.

“There’s no advocacy group for the wilderness in Sanders County. It wouldn’t be a popular position. But when I’m hiking in there, I also see lots of people form Coeur d’Alene, Spokane and Missoula, and none of them seems to know about the mines.

"A lot of people in Sanders County don’t think people from other areas don’t have a voice in the issue because they don’t live here. But the wilderness belongs to everyone.

     -- Jim Costello, SaveOurCabinets.org

"It’s wilderness: Either you’re for or against it."

     --Mary Crowe Costello, Rock Creek Alliance



Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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