HELENA — In a memo to its members, the interim executive director of the Montana Mining Association blasted an article in Field and Stream written by a former employee of a Bozeman Fishing outfitter and called on MMA members to consider booking with other outfitters.
The memo, dated May 2 from interim executive director Tammy Johnson, takes issue with an April 1 Field and Stream article written by Sarah Grigg titled “Lawsuit Filed Against Mining Exploration on Montana’s Smith River.” Johnson also takes issue with comments made in the article by Trout Unlimited conservation director Mark Aagenes.
Tintina Resources Inc. filed for a permit to explore the Johnny Lee copper deposit 15 miles north of White Sulphur Springs last year. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality approved the permit in January, which included the building of a milelong decline to survey the deposit. Environmental groups sued, alleging that the decline went beyond normal exploration activity. In April, Tintina withdrew its request for the decline in favor of less invasive drilling. The Field and Stream article came out before the permit was withdrawn.
Johnson, who is also a lobbyist for Tintina, encouraged MMA members to submit comments online supporting the project and refuting the “hyperbole” of Montana Trout Unlimited. It also encouraged MMA members to consider outfitters other than Bozeman-based Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, Grigg’s former employer. The memo incorrectly identified Grigg as a current employee for Yellow Dog.
“While the article is fairly short, it clearly was written to provide a forum for Montana Trout Unlimited to suggest some rather outlandish claims,” the memo said.
In the Field and Stream article, Aagenes is quoted as saying, that if the mine dewaters the Smith, it would be a big deal for recreationists and agriculture. He further said that water rights holders should be concerned, the memo said.
Johnson called those comments “a clear attempt to frighten farmers and ranchers in the area.”
When reached for comment, Johnson said the memo only represented her role as MMA executive director and was not reflective of her role as a Tintina lobbyist. A lot of hyperbole has surrounded Tintina’s exploration program, but the project has received more environmental analysis than has ever been done, and that water quality and quantity is extremely important, she said.
“Clearly the author is providing a forum that is in opposition to this project, and given the many choices our members and their families have to spend their recreation dollars, I said that they may want to consider a different outfitter,” she said.
Vice president of exploration for Tintina Jerry Zieg said he did not believe Johnson was calling for a boycott of Yellow Dog nor would he support a boycott.
“As for boycotting anyone or anything like that, it doesn’t make any sense to,” Zieg said.
People aren’t getting the full story when information gets to the public, Zieg said, and a lot of misinformation has circulated around the project.
“It leads to a lot of speculation,” he said. “People can come to us and get the facts rather than start speculating about all the bad things that might happen.”
The memo would not change Tintina’s relationship with Johnson as a lobbyist, Zieg said.
Aagenes said he stands behind his comments.
“It’s interesting that the MMA wants to take on Field and Stream, Trout Unlimited and Yellow Dog, which is a very reputable outfitter,” Aagenes said. “Those are three organizations with a long history.”
Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures had nothing to do with the content of the article, said director of operations Jim Klug.
As a business, Yellow Dog does not oppose responsible mining, but people there do not like the idea of a mine near the Smith. Grigg’s article was well researched, and, in his opinion, spot on, Klug said.
“As a company and a Montana business, we align ourselves with and, whenever possible, speak for sportsmen, Montanans who love the outdoors and the thousands of Montanan jobs that are directly related to outdoor recreation, clean water and access to our state’s rivers and streams,” he said.