Date of Award

Spring 1998

Document Type




First Advisor

Mark Smillie

Second Advisor

John Hart

Third Advisor

Murphy Fox


The Blackfoot River has been called "the most endangered river in America" by American Rivers, a national conservation group. When Meriwether Lewis walked this river he saw a waterway emanating a rich dark green hue — a river of life. Now a proposed gold mine threatens this pristine river. As mining companies, land owners, recreationalists, environmental groups, the Earth and its animals, and those who love the river, call into question the state of the Blackfoot watershed, who or what should have the ultimate voice in the future of these "handsome plain bottoms" is uncertain. Grappling with ideological conflict, the aformentioned assemblage of interest groups are working to analyze the questions and answers regarding the river in hopes of reaching a decision about the area's suitability for mining. Looking at responses to the mine proposal by environmentalists, the State of Montana, and McDonald Gold, I have found two primary methods used to examine the effect of the mine on the Blackfoot Valley, viz., an economic review and a land impact assessment. But these are not sufficient to assess such a proposal. Any thorough discussion about the environmental implications of such a project, must include, in addition to the economic review, considerations of environmental ethics, animal rights, quality of life (sometimes grouped in the economic assessment), intrinsic value, and spirituality. When looking at the justification for a mine in any area these collateral progeny must never be forgotten — they are part of the human connection to the Earth.