County commissioners urged to protect against mining impacts

By 
Dwight Harriman

A total of 259 Park County residents signed a letter asking the Park County Commission to use their authority to protect local residents and businesses from the impacts of large-scale mining, including conditional use permits and emergency zoning.

The letter and signatures were presented to the commission Tuesday by Park County Environmental Council Executive Director Michelle Uberuaga.

Uberuaga said that in light of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s recent approval of the Lucky Minerals mining company to conduct mining activities in the Emigrant Peak area, she urged the commission to use its authority “to the fullest extent that you can” to protect the public.

Lucky Minerals in July received DEQ approval to conduct exploratory drilling for gold and other minerals on private land on Emigrant Peak.

The letter — which was circulated to residents with the help of the community groups Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, Emigrant Neighbors and Protecting Paradise — explained:

“While we are counting on the (DEQ) to undertake a thorough review of the mining projects and require steps to lessen their impacts, these processes do little to avoid the immediate and long-term impacts to our healthy economy, roads, agriculture, air and water quality, public land access and Park County emergency services.”

The letter asked the commission to ensure businesses and residents “are not harmed by the impacts from large-scale mining.”

“The mining companies, Crevice Mining Group and Lucky Minerals, have stated they are willing to work with the community to address our concerns … Park County needs an extra level of protection to give us predictability and assurance that our property rights and interests are considered. We wholeheartedly support the use of county conditional use permits and/or emergency zoning to help protect our private rights and provide us with much-needed predictability.”

The letter concluded, “…We cannot afford to wait and see what will happen next.”

Also at the Tuesday meeting, Rural Fire District #1 Chief Dann Babcox and Park County Emergency Services Director Greg Coleman discussed how best to manage fire restrictions in Park County. Under the present system, the county commission can impose fire restrictions, but they are applied countywide with no flexibility for not restricting some areas of the county that might not need it given their conditions. 

So county fire officials are discussing dividing the county into three or even more zones to better manage the restrictions. Officials recognize the possible downside of this system could be public confusion by too many zones with their own restrictions.

The commission asked for more input from county fire officials and will take the matter up again in two weeks.

The commission also:

• Agreed to increase the Emergency Disaster fund by $22,000 because of unanticipated expenditures, such as repairing a washout on Six Mile Road.

• Approved a new job description and job title for Jacqueline Isaly. Isaly had worked as a Tobacco Prevention specialist and a Connect grant coordinator. Her new job title is Health Promotion and Community Engagement director.

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Dwight Harriman may be reached at dharriman@livent.net.