The lawsuit alleges that the U.S. Forest Service erred by letting a Canadian gold company begin exploratory drilling in a national forest west of Yellowstone.
A recently filed lawsuit alleges that the U.S. Forest Service violated federal law by permitting a Canadian company to begin prospecting for gold in eastern Idaho.
According to ABC News, the lawsuit was filed by two environmental groups: the Idaho Conservation League and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
The organizations have asked a district court to stop Excellon Idaho Gold’s Kilgore Gold Exploration Project from proceeding in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Clark County, Idaho.
In their complaint, the groups say that the prospecting project—which could result in Excellon constructing a gold mine—could harm native wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolverines, and lynx.
Excellon Idaho Gold, notes ABC News, is a subsidiary of Toronto-based Excellon Resources Inc.
Excellon acquired its current gold prospecting project from the British Columbia-based Otis Gold Corporation in 2020.
Otis Gold had previously said that it believes the area could contain at least 825,000 ounces of gold near the surface level—and potentially even more below.
The company planned to construct an open-pit mine if it finds that most of the gold is near the surface, or an underground mine if it is deeper.
These types of mines, says ABC News, would require additional permissions from the U.S. Forest Service.
ABC News notes that the U.S. Forest Service approved the current prospecting project by applying the White House Council on Environmental Quality changes to the National Environmental Policy Act.
The changes were enacted after former President Donald Trump issued an executive order accelerating the environmental review process.
“Although there are several pending cases challenging the 2020 regulations as inconsistent with the core tenets of NEPA, the Forest Service elected to apply the 2020 regulations and ignored the Kilgore Project’s likely significant effects,” the lawsuit claims, alleging that Excellon’s exploratory drilling violates the Forest Service Act of 1897.
“The Kilgore Project site is also home to individuals and habitat for numerous special-status and at-risk terrestrial species of wildlife and plants, including grizzly bear, wolverine, lynx, elk, whitebark pine, and others found in the Centennial Mountains,” the lawsuit says.
The environmental groups also said that grizzly bears travel through the area affected by exploratory drilling and is thus an important site for genetic diversity.
“The Centennial Mountains are one of the key corridors for (Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem) grizzly to connect with grizzlies from other populations in the Northern Rockies,” the lawsuit states.