We need your help for our Legal Defense Fund!
Friends of the Jocko is fighting the State of Montana in a legal battle. The State violated the law and the Montana Constitution by rubber stamping a permit for a huge gravel pit and asphalt plant in the pristine Jocko Valley, amidst farms, orchards, pastures, gardens, and hayfields, and half a mile from the Garden of 1,000 Buddhas. This industrial monstrosity will damage air and water quality, wildlife habitat and our cultural and traditional way of life. We need your help to pay for our legal team to defend our valley. 100% of your donations will go to our legal defense fund and outreach efforts. Thank you!
The Jocko River Valley is a beautiful, culturally and environmentally important area in Western Montana, the State that considers itself the “last best place”. Unfortunately, Arlee, a small rural town in the valley located in the heart of the Flathead Indian Reservation now has its peace, tranquility, health and culture under threat.
The Department of Environmental Quality of the State of Montana has issued a permit for a 157-acre gravel pit and asphalt plant in Arlee, Montana. The permit would allow the plant to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year for decades. The permit was issued without meaningful consultation with the Tribe or the people living near the site. In addition, the significant environmental consequences of the plant were never fully considered. Instead, the permit was based on the opinions of the corporate permit applicant, which were accepted as fact.
The site is an important corridor for a number of endangered species, a fact that has been acknowledged by the agency issuing the permit. In addition, asphalt fumes are a known carcinogen. Besides air pollution in this pristine area, water quality is under threat as well. Runoff from the plant will endanger Pellew Creek and may ultimately harm the trout-laden Jocko River. In short, the asphalt plant is an environmental disaster ready and waiting to happen.
The plant also has major cultural consequences. The Tribe has raised concerns about possible damage to key sacred cultural heritage sites and these concerns were never addressed. Half a mile away from the site is the Garden of 1,000 Buddhas, a place where people from all over the country and the world come to relax, meditate and study Buddhism. If the plant begins to operate, the peace and tranquility of the Garden will be destroyed with clouds of dust and deafening noise as rocks are crushed by heavy equipment and dozens of trucks carrying gravel go roaring by day and night. If an industrial development of such scale can be permitted in this location without concern about its impact, it could happen anywhere.
A small courageous group of local people formed the non-profit organization Friends of the Jocko to oppose the gravel pit and asphalt plant. Fortunately, we have a strong legal case and an excellent environmental law firm to represent us. Your contribution to pay for these legal costs will help us win. This is not just a case of “Not in my back yard”. A victory in this case can help stop environmentally irresponsible development throughout the state as it sets a precedent to challenge open pit mining elsewhere. Please be as generous as possible.
The legal costs of filing and prosecuting the case will amount to thousands of dollars and the environmental and cultural impacts of the mine and asphalt plant are vast. Contributions of any size will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
- Environmental degradation: air, water, soil, noise and light pollution in a Class 1 Airshed and essential wildlife corridor for endangered species like grizzly bears
- Cultural impacts: damaging sensitive tribal lands and the Garden of 1000 Buddhas, a retreat center for meditation and Buddhist studies
- Social: diminishing life quality and health for everyone in the extended neighborhood, people and livestock alike.
- Economic: No new jobs are created. One man makes millions. All others lose property values and income from tourism. Local tax dollars will pay for damage from gravel trucks on narrow County roads.
Why we expect to win our lawsuit against the DEQ:
- The new DEQ permit process for opencut mining in Montana is in clear violation of the Montana Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) and the Montana Constitution, which guarantees Montanans the right to a clean and healthful environment and meaningful public participation. For now, Montana is still a State with checks and balances on governmental overreach.
- The DEQs Environmental Assessment (EA) for the permit was mostly based on opinions, primarily those of the applicant, not on scientific evidence or the “hard look” required by MEPA. In a court of law, opinions don’t carry much weight. We have facts to back us up.
“I have been connected with the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas for nearly twenty years, and have greatly appreciated what a rare place of peacefulness and beauty it is. All of this is significantly threatened by the possibility of a gravel mine and asphalt plant going in nearby. Area residents have expressed concerns about potential impacts on the environment, air quality, road traffic and related safety issues, noise levels, dust control, light pollution, property devaluation and local wildlife, which includes threatened species such as grizzly bears and bull trout.
And thus I want to add my voice to the many who oppose these significant threats to both the Garden and nearby residents in Arlee. And I hope and pray that it can be stopped!”