If Payette National Forest Supervisor Keith Lannon is going to allow American Independence Mines and Minerals validate its claims to the Golden Hand mine in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, he should make its workers walk the four miles into the site instead of ride ATVs and trucks.
That’s what the Idaho Conservation League, Friends of the Clearwater, Earthworks and other environmental groups said in their objections to the preliminary decision to authorize more than 500 trips into the wilderness by trucks, drilling rigs and bulldozers. The company needs to validate its claims, which predate the wilderness designation in 1980, before it can proceed with any exploration, development, or production plans.
The Forest Service released a Draft Record of Decision in December 2014, approving the work at the Golden Hand site forty miles northeast of McCall. The claim lies inside the Frank Church Wilderness and in the headwaters of Big Creek, which flows into the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The preliminary decision would allow the use of dumptrucks, bulldozers and drilling rigs to open roads, clear drill pads and excavate trenches within the wilderness.
It would also allow 24-7 drilling operations and authorize up to 571 motorized vehicle trips into the Frank Church Wilderness each year for three years.
"The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River are priceless treasures belonging to the people of Idaho and all Americans,” said John Robison of the Idaho Conservation League. “The mining company has many, many less destructive tools available to determine whether these claims are valid that are more appropriate to this special wilderness setting.”