Trout Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have reached a conservation easement agreement for 549 acres just outside Yellowstone.
According to an Elk Foundation press release, the organizations reached this agreement with Kinross Gold U.S.A., Inc. for land around the former Mineral Hill Mine, which operated between 1990 and 1996.
According to the press release, the agreement will be commemorated near Jardine, Montana at 1 p.m. MST. Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department David Bernhardt, Montana Senators Jon Tester (D) and Steve Daines (R) and Congressman Greg Gianforte (R) will speak at the event. From the release:
As part of its remediation and reclamation plans for the Mineral Hill Mine, a subsidiary of Kinross donated water rights representing approximately 3 billion gallons of water to Trout Unlimited to permanently protect vital fish habitat in tributaries of the Yellowstone River. It also reached a conservation easement agreement with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to permanently protect a 549-acre land corridor used as an important elk migration route and scenic Yellowstone National Park viewshed.
“Mining responsibly is an imperative at Kinross and guides decision-making at all of our properties,” said J. Paul Rollinson, Kinross Gold President and CEO. “We are proud to partner with Trout Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to achieve positive benefits for the environment and local community by protecting important fish and wildlife habitat in the Yellowstone area.”
“Last year’s fish kill and emergency closure of the Yellowstone River underscored the importance of making our rivers more resilient. This agreement will help keep more water in the river, providing cooler temperatures in the height of summer and better habitat for fish and wildlife. It is great to see a company such as Kinross understand that healthy fisheries are the lifeblood of the West. Trout Unlimited is excited to see such a partnership provide lasting benefits to both the river and the communities that depends on it,” said Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited President and CEO.
“This project is a win-win for elk and elk country because it permanently protects a key migration corridor as well as important habitat for elk, deer and other wildlife,” said David Allen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation President and CEO. “We appreciate the work of our partners in conserving the land’s wildlife values and improving public access.”
The water rights donation and conservation easement were made by Kinross Gold U.S.A., Inc.’s wholly-owned subsidiary, TVX Mineral Hill, Inc. (“TVX”). The Mineral Hill Mine was operated by TVX until the mine closed in 1996. TVX became a subsidiary of Kinross Gold U.S.A., Inc. in 2003.
Mining in the Mineral Hill region dates back to the 1860’s, and many generations of Americans have benefited from the rich mineral endowment in the area. After the Mineral Hill Mine’s closure, the Company’s extensive reclamation activities earned the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Hard Rock Mineral Environmental Award in 2011. Today, the responsible stewardship of the land has come full circle with this agreement, as fish and wildlife habitat conserved here will benefit future generations.
Under the agreement, Trout Unlimited will retain water rights for, “3 billion gallons of water, which is up to 2.5 cubic feet per second (cfs) in Pine Creek, and 14 cfs in Bear Creek, two tributaries of the Yellowstone River.” The Elk Foundation, meanwhile, will preserve the 549-acre corridor as permanent habitat for elk, deer, moose and other species; the group will also vouchsafe access with the Pine Creek Trail.
The announcement comes after the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission announced they were looking to more than double the Dome Mountain Wildlife Management Area, another important elk area outside Yellowstone. Coincidentally, the Mineral Hill corridor is contiguous with the Dome Mountain area.
The news also comes amid debate over a pair of gold mining proposals outside Emigrant Gulch and Jardine. The Emigrant Gulch proposal, put forth by Lucky Minerals Inc., could start exploratory drilling by the end of year after getting the go-ahead from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The Jardine proposal, put forth by Crevice Mining Group LLC, has had its permit application rejected repeatedly due to DEQ concerns.
Both proposals are on private property. However, it’s likely any full-fledged mine would need to expand onto public land. Currently, there is a two-year moratorium on mine claims on 30,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in the Paradise Valley near these mine proposals. In addition, Senator Tester has introduced a bill to permanently withdraw these lands from mining considerations. The bill itself, the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, has gotten a hearing in the U.S. Senate but does not have the explicit support of either Daines or Gianforte, although both have spoken in favor of preventing mining outside Yellowstone National Park.