Victory! Halting Gold Exploration in Idaho’s Centennial Mountains

7th of May 2020

On Monday, the U.S. District Court in Idaho revoked the Forest Service’s approval of the Kilgore Project and stopped Canadian mining company Otis Gold Corp. (now Excellon Resources Inc.) from moving forward with gold exploration near the Centennial Mountains by the town of Kilgore, Idaho. The area contains a critical wildlife corridor on the Idaho-Montana border, frequently used by grizzly bears and other wildlife.

This important decision follows our 2019 victory when Judge Winmill issued a ruling that the Forest Service failed to consider Otis’s underground drilling as a threat to water quality and Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Corral Creek. These rulings mean Otis’s exploration project cannot proceed unless the Forest Service analyzes and discloses the impacts of drilling on groundwater and fish in Corral Creek, takes public comment, and issues a new decision approving the Kilgore Project. 

The exploration project covers nearly 20 miles of federal and state public lands and would include construction of 10 miles of new roads and nearly 150 drill stations. If enough gold is found, Otis has indicated it plans to build an open pit, cyanide heap leach mine. These types of mines pose significant threats to human health and the environment, as they often leak or spill contaminants from the mine site into adjacent waters.
“Before authorizing a mining company to use our public lands, the Forest Service has a legal duty to study, disclose, and protect against environmental degradation,” said Staff Attorney Bryan Hurlbutt. “The court’s decision reaffirms this basic tenet of environmental law and will help protect the Centennial Mountains.”

We represented Idaho Conservation League and Greater Yellowstone Coalition in this case.

Read the Court Decision

Challenging Wildlife Killing Program in Idaho

Advocates for the West and in-house counsel from client Western Watersheds Project are suing USDA Wildlife Services for killing thousands of coyotes and other native wildlife in Idaho, mostly at the request of livestock producers, without first completing an up-to-date analysis disclosing the environmental consequences of those actions.  

In 2018, we won a case against the secretive federal agency for its 2016 completion of an Environmental Assessment and Decision that covered some of its Idaho activities but failed to address the growing scientific controversy over whether killing predators actually reduces livestock losses to predation, among other reasons.

The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are also named in the lawsuit for authorizing Wildlife Service’s predator killing on public lands without the necessary environmental analysis.

In addition, we are challenging Wildlife Services’ operation of its Pocatello Supply Depot, which manufactures and distributes M-44 ‘cyanide bombs’ and other specialized poisons for killing wildlife nationwide—and even worldwide—without ever having undertaken a detailed analysis of the public health risks or environmental consequences of doing so. An M-44 manufactured by the Pocatello Supply Depot and set on public lands to kill coyotes injured a child and killed his dog just three years ago.

“This lawsuit is intended to ensure federal agencies comply with their legal duty to analyze and disclose to the public all effects of their actions before they take those actions,” said Senior Attorney Laurie Rule. “Wildlife Services and the land management agencies have failed to fulfill that duty, leaving the public uninformed about the true impacts of Wildlife Service’s predator killing in Idaho.”
We are working with Talasi Brooks from Western Watersheds Project (WWP) to represent WildEarth Guardians, Predator Defense and WWP in this critical case for Idaho’s wildlife.

Read the Complaint