At-Risk River

Scott Bosse's picture

The Smith lands on Most Endangered Rivers list.

Every year since 1984, American Rivers has issued its America’s Most Endangered Rivers report to highlight ten rivers across the country that face a critical decision point over the next year that could determine their fate far into the future. The report garners national and even international media attention, and more importantly, has mobilized millions of Americans to take action on behalf of their favorite rivers.

This year, Montana’s Smith River was highlighted as the nation’s #4 most endangered river due to the threat of the proposed Black Butte copper mine along Sheep Creek, home to half of the tributary-spawning wild trout in the Smith River system. If built, the mine threatens the Smith River’s water quality and wild trout fishery with acid mine drainage, contamination from toxic heavy metals, nutrient pollution, and groundwater pumping that could dry up critical trout habitat in Sheep Creek. Vancouver-based Tintina Resources Inc. is expected to submit its mining plan to the state in late 2015.

 Smith River, Sheep Creek Mine
What's at stake.

“The Smith River offers one of the greatest backcountry angling experiences available anywhere in the United States,” says Jim Klug, owner of Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures based in Bozeman. “As a business owner who relies on healthy rivers for my living, it’s important to me that jobs in the outdoor recreation industry not be sacrificed to create jobs in the mining industry.”

American Rivers asks everyone who cherishes the Smith River to urge Montana Governor Steve Bullock to direct state agencies to permit the Black Butte mine only if it can be developed in a way that poses zero threat to the Smith River’s water quality and wild trout fishery. Click here to take action.

Smith River, Brown Trout

The Smith isn’t the first Montana river that has appeared in the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report. Other notable Montana rivers that have been featured on multiple occasions include the Big Blackfoot, Kootenai, North Fork Flathead, and Yellowstone. By shining national attention on threats these rivers have faced, American Rivers has helped local groups achieve major conservation victories. For example, last December the entire North Fork Flathead River watershed was withdrawn from new mineral entry when Congress passed the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, ending a decades-long battle over mining and energy development along the western border of Glacier National Park.

Here are the top ten rivers from this year’s America’s Most Endangered Rivers report:

1.Colorado River in the Grand Canyon (Arizona)
2.Columbia River (Washington/Oregon)
3.Holston River (Tennessee)
4. Smith River (Montana)
5. Edisto River (South Carolina)
6. Chuitna River (Alaska)
7. Rogue/Smith Rivers (Oregon/California)
8. St. Louis River (Minnesota)
9. Harpeth River (Tennessee)
10. Pearl River (Louisiana/Mississippi)

For more information about American Rivers and this year’s America’s Most Endangered Rivers report, visit

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