The South Fork of the Salmon, a whitewater river with important spawning habitat for migrating fish, has again been named a Most Endangered River on American River’s annual list. The reason and threat are still the same: Midas Gold’s Stibnite Project, a proposed gold mine at the headwaters of the river, that threatens downstream tribal nations, communities, and species that rely on a healthy South Fork.
On an advertising panel in Boise’s Camel’s Back Park, Midas Gold lays out the attractions of their proposed Stibnite Project located in the headwaters of the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River. The advertisement claims the project will boost Idaho’s economy, provide employment opportunities, and restore fish migration to the nearby rivers and streams. Nowhere on the sign does Midas acknowledge that the Stibnite Project is a massive open-pit gold mining operation that will put a unique and cherished place at risk of losing its wild heart.
This week a judge has ruled in favor of the Forest Service in their case against 35 placer mining claims located along the South Fork of the Payette River. The decision signifies a victory for the numerous local outfitters, rafters, kayakers, businesses, and conservation groups that opposed the development of mining activities along this stretch of river.
If I had to describe Idaho’s South Fork of the Salmon in one phrase, I’d call it the rowdy cousin to its more famous and beloved drainage to the east, the Middle Fork. I’d even go a little further and call it the three-bourbons-deep, wrassle-you-to-the-ground, slap-your-ass-and-leave-some-pawprints babe of a cousin to the Middle Fork. I had the pleasure of getting my first taste of a solid South Fork welcoming slap a couple years ago.
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.
Midas Gold is advancing its work to make partners out of west central Idaho communities and has offered to create a trust in an apparent bid for political support. According to a McCall City Council agenda, Midas is focusing its efforts on McCall, Cascade, Council, Donnelly, New Meadows, Riggins and the village of Yellow Pine, as well as Adams, Idaho and Valley counties; and the West Central Mountains Community Partnership—basically every municipality in proposed mine’s direct area of impact.