Delegation returns with ‘cautious optimism’

A delegation of Lincoln and Sanders County residents have returned from Washington, D.C., with hope that their visit encouraged more expeditious agency action with regard to the permitting of the Rock Creek and Montanore mining projects in northwest Montana.

“The reaction of the delegation that went to D.C. is one filled with cautious optimism and hope,” said Bruce Vincent, one of the group’s members. “The word being shared by the delegation concerning the level of commitment that was shown by the agency staff and legislative staff we me with in DC has ben warmly received by community members.”

The delegation held two public meetings in Libby last week, presenting at the Libby Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon and again at a public forum held at the Venture Inn Wednesday evening. About 40 people attended each of the events, Vincent said, and the public reaction was warm.

“Community members seemed heartened when they ask if ‘the folks back there know how bloody long we have been held in limbo concerning Montanore and Rock Creek’ and the delegation members have been able to assure them that, yes, the folks back there know,” he said. “The news that each of those we met with understood that the projects have been decades in analysis, shared in our expressed frustration, and were ready and willing to do what they could to help our partner agencies of the United States Forest Service and United States Fish and Wildlife get staffing needs met so that the projects can be brought over the goal line has been very much appreciated by a very concerned public.”

Vincent said the group met with agency staff and officials in an attempt to increase staff on the Kootenai National Forest in order to help expedite the agency’s response to Judge Donald Molloy’s ruling in May. Molloy remanded parts of the Record of Decision for the Montanore project back to the agencies for additional work.

Vincent said the group received a commitment from Forest Service Chief Tidwell that the necessary resources would be dispatched to the Kootenai National Forest.

“Thankfully, we were able to announce the news that the Kootenai was given the ‘green light’ to add two additional geologists on the forest and they are moving to accomplish that task,” Vincent said. “That staffing assistance was one of the requests we made when we visited with Chief Tidwell.”