For Immediate Release, October 14, 2019

Contact:

Katherine O’Brien, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699, kobrien@earthjustice.org
Andrea Santarsiere, Center for Biological Diversity, (303) 854-7748,
asantarsiere@biologicaldiversity.org

Court Rejects Trump Administration Attempt to Dismiss Challenges to Rock Creek Mine’s Threat to Montana Grizzly Bears

MISSOULA, Mont.— A federal district court in Montana on Friday rejected the Trump administration’s efforts to dismiss key claims in a lawsuit challenging federal approval of the first phase of the Rock Creek Mine. The project would harm grizzly bears and other endangered animals.

The suit says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act in approving Rock Creek. The proposed copper and silver mine would be beneath, and adjacent to, the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in northwest Montana.

“The Rock Creek Mine would do major damage to endangered grizzly bears and bull trout in the Cabinet Mountains,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision means the Trump administration can’t hide its legal violations in approving the project. We’ll keep fighting to stop this wildlife-wrecking mine.”

Earthjustice is representing the Ksanka Kupaqa Xaʾⱡȼin, Rock Creek Alliance, Earthworks, Montana Environmental Information Center, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity in the lawsuit.

“An industrial mine would devastate the cultural and ecological values of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness,” said Katherine O’Brien, a staff attorney at Earthjustice. “We’re glad the court has allowed our challenges to proceed.”

The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service when a proposed project may hurt listed species, and to reinitiate consultation when new information reveals effects not previously considered.

New information on the mine’s threats to imperiled grizzly bears required reinitiation of the Forest Service’s and Fish and Wildlife Service’s consultation process. The agencies’ decisions regarding impacts on bull trout also violate the Act.

“The Ktunaxa (Kootenai Nation) are fortunate to have a voice of reason at the federal level. As protectors of these lands, Kupaqa Xaʾⱡȼin will continue to challenge unnecessary destruction of Klawala (grizzly bear) habitat and fisheries,” said Wilbert Buckskin of Ksanka Kupaqa Xaʾⱡȼin. “Our ancestors respected wildlife and that’s why we exist today.”

The Rock Creek Mine would involve mining and processing up to 10,000 tons of ore per day for as long as 30 years. The court’s ruling allows the full array of legal challenges advanced by Ktunaxa cultural leaders and conservation groups to proceed.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.