As a Daughter of Idaho's West Central Mountains, I Hear You.

 Engaged citizens rallied together on September 1st to speak out against Midas Gold’s proposed mining project.

Engaged citizens rallied together on September 1st to speak out against Midas Gold’s proposed mining project.

On the banks of Payette Lake, I stood beside land owners, business owners, anglers, kayakers, hunters, boaters, teachers, tribal members and my 5-month old nephew. Myself, and over 200 people on September 1, gathered for the Rally for the South Fork Salmon. We raised our proud, clear voices in uneasy opposition for the Midas Gold Stibnite Project. We spoke our truths, truths which haven’t been tarnished by the Midas dollar.

I write this as a daughter of the West Central Mountains. I was born on this soil and raised within the currents and on the shores of the Salmon River drainage. Unlike Midas Gold, I am Idahoan. I was born here and I plan to stay here. This is personal. Like those who attended the rally, I have a great deal to lose and I’m not willing to sacrifice what is already promised to me and generations to come, a healthy Salmon River. In exchange for what? I’ll call it what it is, an open pit mine, three to be exact. It’s frightening and exhausting to be on the penniless side of the fight, to feel like your natural resources are up for grabs to the highest bidder with aggressive PR campaigns led by six-figure salaried employees.

The Rally for the South Fork Salmon was led entirely by citizens who are tired of being patronized by Midas’ hollow words of “reclamation” and “restoration”. Citizens are demanding their voices be heard over blinding promises and dollar signs. These capable, competent citizens are offended by what they see as bribery in their communities. This controversial mining project proposal has left West Central Mountains communities apprehensive, especially as the company looms over city councils with their Community Partnership.

Among the voices at the rally was passionate McCall native, Judy Anderson. Judy, along with This Land Is Our Land Coalition and Better Neighborhoods, was instrumental in bringing the community together in support of the SF of the Salmon river. With microphone in hand, Judy beautifully articulated the importance of all of our voices being heard. I asked her to share her speech with those who were unable attend the rally. Please read on below. I ask of you, if you love the Salmon River drainage, or anything that depends on it, speak up. The river needs your voice. I promise you, right now, nothing matters more. Your community leaders need to hear from you. No new mine at Stibnite. No legally binding partnership. Not now, not ever.

“I am not going to speak about Midas Gold, I want to speak about us, all of us and the way we decide things. I think it is fundamentally flawed. The decision process we use when something of great importance to the community comes up, that process continues to generate suffering for both humans and the earth. So why do we pursue it, what is wrong?

Common practice says you get better decisions when you bring all the stakeholders to the table.We certainly make token gestures in that direction, but the truth is we never truly bring all the stakeholders to the table. On one hand, we simply don’t know how, and on the other hand, those in charge of the process –usually people already in power- don’t really want them there in the first place. Additionally, the stakeholders with the greatest stake in the outcome are often never given a voice at all.

So what am I talking about?  For example, the practice of marginalizing  populations- like working parents. How can they come to a meeting at 5:30 pm?  Childcare is never offered, never considered. Or how about county meetings held during the day in Cascade? They are almost impossible for any working person to attend. Or what about the documents you need to read to participate in the discussion? They are always “available on the Internet” except for the 30% of the population who don’t have computers. And then there is the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, a completely daunting document. You’d have to take a leave of absence from work just to read it. What does all this do?  It shuts voices down, the voices of some of the most vulnerable people who have the least resources to buffer them from any impacting change. Who will speak for them?

And then there’s the stakeholders, who will be most impacted, whose voices are never heard at all.  Like the River. And I’m not talking about the River as a resource or as a playground for us. But the River as just itself, its right to exist as part of creation, that exuberant, leaping joy, delighting in itself…. the lifeblood of central Idaho. That River.

And what about the fish as stakeholders? The wolverines? The other animals and tenacious plants and trees who make up these intricate living systems of support. We live by the generosity of these living systems and they are deeply affected by our decisions. Who will speak for them?

And the foundation of all –the soil (referred to in documents as “overburden”) is dismissed, churned up, poisoned. Hundreds and thousands of years of careful  structures teeming with microscopic life is cast aside.Who will speak for the soil?

And finally, who will speak for future generations, who also have a huge stake in this decision. Those who have every right to live in a place of profound spiritual  inspiration and to be baptized in the clarity of the South Fork waters. Who will speak for them? How will they be brought to the table?

I believe that the crisis we have created in the world today with the earth flailing in the fever of climate change—that crisis is the final result of our refusal for thousands of years to consider, in our decisions, all these stakeholders, all these affected parties.

Our failure is a failure to operate as a community within the greater community of the earth. Our failure is a failure to realize how much we depend on and need to care for each other. Our failure is a failure to rouse ourselves from our techno- wonderworld entrancement. To rouse ourselves, and touch again, that feeling when we woke as children on a spring morning and the whole world spoke to us - every rock, every tree, every smile, every puddle.

So I ask you, in the boardrooms, at your work, behind closed doors, in city meetings, on conference calls, all the places where decisions are made: Who is going to speak for those who are marginalized?  Who is going to speak for the River?  Who is going to speak for the fish, the animals?  Who is going to speak for the plants and the soil?  And who is going to speak for future generations?

There is a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and she says when she talks to her students, they are very free in expressing their love for the earth. But when she asks them, “Does the world love you back?”, students get quiet and look down and have a hard time answering. But Kimmerer says to them, “Yes, the world loves you back.  It loves you back in strawberries, in huckleberries, in tomatoes, in fields of shooting stars, in hot springs, in the first snowflakes, in rivers.”

I know this is a hard and baffling time when many of us feel inexpressible sadness about what we have done to the earth- our home. But Kimmerer says it is all about transformation. Our love for the world causes our grief, but we can’t stop there. We have to transform, burn through that grief into Deeper Love.  And then we have to harness that Deeper Love and bring it to the table.

-Judy Anderson, SF Salmon Rally , September 1, 2018