New Mining, Headwater Creeks & Community Health

Upper Missouri Waterkeeper is reviewing several new mining proposals that affect headwater creeks and community health outside Pony, MT.


Mining outside Pony, MT is disturbing huge swaths of fragile forestland, often near headwater creeks

Since 2012, small mining operators have conducted so-called “reclamation” activities in the headwater drainages of Pony Creek, NE of the town of Pony. Reclamation involves expanding old, or creating new roads on steep hillsides (30-40 degrees!) adjacent small creeks, springs, and seeps, not to mention the actual excavation and crushing of old ores.

These activities can significantly disturb local landscapes, fragment forest habitat, and contribute locally-significant discharges or contaminated sediment into trout waters and destroy local springs and seeps. Likewise, the trucking and industrial traffic associated with these activities can destroy local, small county roads and creates significant safety and nuisance concerns for small towns.

Because the reclamation activities outside – and running through – Pony are occurring on both federal public land and private parcels in the Tobacco Root Mountains they require environmental reviews and appropriate mitigation under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Lands Policy Management Act, and the Clean Water Act. Together these laws require decisionmakers in land management agencies to consider any proposed action, along with any other related or reasonably foreseeable activities, to identify environmental and social impacts (polluted runoff, forest fragmentation, public safety from trucks and industrial activities), and to implement meaningful, site-specific pollution and safety controls.

Now in 2015, with several industrial mining operations already in progress since 2012,  the Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service are considering even more proposals to mine and reclaims materials in the headwater drainages and forest lands above Pony. Up to this point neither the BLM, USFS, or local county officials have cumulatively considered mining and reclamation activities in this area or taken steps to protect local communities and natural resources from pollution or safety concerns.

Upper Missouri Waterkeeper, working with local citizens, has reviewed several new plans and written two technical comment letters outlining the failures of decisionmakers to identify and assess negative impacts, nor to require meaningful, appropriate protections for local landscapes, waterways and communities like Pony.

Click to read our technical comment letters to BLM and the USFS, respectively, below.

Comment.PonyMining-Mar-17-2015.pdf.  Comment.PonyMining.USFS-March-20-2015.pdf.

Moving forward, we remain committed to helping local Pony residents stand up for their right to not only decisionmaking that follows the law, but their right to a clean and healthful environment. Stay tuned as we await responses from federal agencies concerning their duty to holistically review new proposed mining and reclamation activities and enforce meaningful safety and pollution controls for local waterways and communities!