Montana Initiative 186 will be on the ballot for Montana voters on Tuesday and has serious implications for the waterways and fish in the state. Simply put, I-186’s intention is to prevent future mines from leaching toxic chemicals into Montana’s streams and rivers. Within the state, a majority of voters favor of the initiative, according to a MSU/MTN poll, but still there is significant pressure from the mining community.

Currently, there are 3,500 abandoned mines in Montana that has polluted roughly 2,500 miles of streams. While a great deal of the pollutants–acid mine drainage, lead, arsenic, and mercury come from abandoned mines, modern-day mines still produce the same pollutants. These pollutants have dangerous effects on the affected ecosystems, including significant loss of biodiversity, and can negatively impact humans, as well.

Photo courtesy of Trout Unlimited

When these mining effects become known, the government is tasked with cleaning the toxins up. This has cost taxpayers millions of dollars annually. I-186 seeks to prevent these environmental effects, by holding new mine operations accountable for their potentially-degrading activities. The bill would make it harder and more challenging for new mines to operate due to stricter regulations and standards. The general population opposing the bill is the mining employees, their families and communities that depend on this commerce. While supporters of I-186 includes: Simms Fly Fishing, Yellow Dog Fly Fishing, Orvis, Trout Unlimited, Montana Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, and Berkshire Hathaway Bozeman. 

For more information on the supporting point of view, check out Yes on 186.