For Business Icon, Saving the Smith River is Personal
Today’s guest blog is a part of the America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series highlighting the Smith River in Montana. Our guest blogger is K.C. Walsh, angler, entrepreneur, and owner of Simms Fishing Products, based out of Bozeman, Montana.
Join us as we celebrate the Smith River in Montana throughout August, and be sure to take action!
Simms business requires me to travel extensively, frequently interfacing with anglers from around the globe. Wherever I am, it’s not unusual for the Smith River to come up in conversations about fishing in Montana. Those who have floated it smile, and typically exclaim that it was their most profound outdoor experience in the Rocky Mountains. Or, others ask about whom I might recommend to outfit them on a trip, or ask me how hard it is to get a permit for non-residents.
My personal journey with the Smith began in 1995 when a small group of friends invited me on a late May float down the river. We did a long first day to the Sheep Wagon campsite, and I still mark that as the most memorable day of fishing that I have experienced in Montana. We hit the salmonfly hatch, and had extraordinary fishing all day. Legendary Smith guide and Trout Unlimited champion, Jim Belsey, whose ashes are scattered at the Table Rock campsite, dryly remarked to me as we were tying up our raft, “Look, it’s not always like this…” And, indeed, I’ve never experienced the hatch in that way since.
I have since done nine trips down the Smith, and whether the fishing is on or not, it is always a high point of my year. Depending on permits, I now go on an annual trip with my kids, who are finally old enough to help out with the camping and rowing. There is always a lot of planning, menu decisions to be made, discussions about our favorite camps, and lots of speculation about water flows and fishing potential. This year, we also discussed the proposed copper mine.
As both a Montanan and professional in the sport fishing industry, I hope that the recreational value of the Smith River corridor is clearly valued when our state agencies are evaluating the potential for mining at the headwaters of this beautiful resource. When I read about the recent tragedy on the Animas River in Colorado, my first thought was that this might someday happen on the Smith. We just can’t let that happen, and it’s very hard to find examples of responsible mining projects that haven’t negatively impacted surrounding river systems. It’s also hard to find mining projects that have provided a positive social result for the surrounding communities.
I am strongly opposed to the proposed copper mine along Sheep Creek in the Smith’s headwaters, and hope that we can find more sustainable opportunities to create jobs and economic vitality in White Sulphur Springs and the surrounding areas.
Today, you can take action to help save the Smith River in Montana! Please urge Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock to protect this special place by directing his state agencies not to issue any permits for mining unless it can be developed in a manner that eliminates any possibility of degrading the river’s water quality and wild trout fishery.