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Mining Companies and Conservation Groups Create Partnership to Improve the Health of the Upper Blackoot River
(6/17/2012 2:05:00 PM)


June 13, 2012




Mining Companies and Conservation Groups Create Partnership

to Improve the Health of the Upper Blackfoot River


BOISE – Three companies that mine phosphate in southeastern Idaho have formed a partnership with two conservation groups to improve the health of the Upper Blackfoot River.  This innovative partnership, the Upper Blackfoot River Initiative for Conservation (UBRIC), will begin voluntary conservation projects this year to improve water quality and fish habitat.


The UBRIC partners include JR Simplot Company, Monsanto, Agrium/Nu-West Industries, the Idaho Conservation League and Trout Unlimited.


Idaho’s Upper Blackfoot River has historically supported thriving populations of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout and is a prized fishery.  Over the years, human activity has degraded some of the key river habitat and fish populations have declined.  Monsanto’s Jeff Klieve described the motivation for the project: “We and our UBRIC partners hope to restore much of the Upper Blackfoot fishery.  It is an opportunity for stakeholders of the Blackfoot River to come together and make a positive difference.”


In February, UBRIC completed an assessment of habitat conditions and fish passage obstacles, and compiled available data on fish populations throughout the Upper Blackfoot watershed.  This information will enable UBRIC to identify and prioritize specific restoration projects to be tackled in 2012 and beyond. “Our top priority projects are those that will immediately benefit water quality and fish,” said Rob Masonis, Vice President for Western Conservation at Trout Unlimited. 


The partners will not act alone.  “In all our projects, we will reach out to other interested parties and work collaboratively with landowners and government agencies,” said Alan Prouty, Simplot’s representative to UBRIC.  Among the entities UBRIC has contacted and intends to work with closely are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, the Idaho Departments of Fish and Game and Environmental Quality, the Bureau of Land Management, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, conservation organizations, the Caribou Cattle Company, the Bear Lake Grazing Company, and other landowners and ranchers throughout the watershed.


UBRIC will also provide support to Idaho Fish & Game in its efforts to control, through non-lethal means, the expanding pelican populations near Blackfoot Reservoir. “The pelican population in the Upper Blackfoot watershed has grown way beyond their historical numbers and they are eating a lot of the young Yellowstone cutthroat trout.  As we work to restore habitat in the Blackfoot River and improve water quality, we also need to have a thoughtful strategy to make sure the benefit of UBRIC’s habitat restoration work is not negated by the pelicans,” said the Idaho Conservation League’s Justin Hayes.


UBRIC is an unusual partnership of mining companies that compete with one another and conservation groups that have criticized the mining industry for pollution and habitat degradation. Asked how this unlikely group came together, Mitch Hart of Agrium/Nu-West said, “We have had our differences, but we found common ground in our concern for the Upper Blackfoot watershed, which is home to many of our families, employees and friends.  Each partner brings specific resources and skills that, together, create a potent force for positive change, benefiting fish, water quality and local communities.” 


The UBRIC partners have initiated project planning efforts and will begin field work this summer.


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