Habitat projects to mitigate phosphate mining

In what we’re hoping is a watershed moment for Idaho’s phosphate industry, a major mining company has given nearly $1.2 million to help fund habitat improvement projects to offset predicted impacts to wildlife habitat from the Rasmussen Valley Mine located in southeastern Idaho. Projects using that money could be selected and implemented as soon as the fall of 2018. 

 Phosphate mines in southeast Idaho. Ag giant Agrium is investing more than $1 million to mitigate the impacts of an expanded mine here. (Map courtesy Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.)

Phosphate mines in southeast Idaho. Ag giant Agrium is investing more than $1 million to mitigate the impacts of an expanded mine here. (Map courtesy Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.)

Agricultural giant Agrium’s investment was part of its approval for its proposed Rasmussen Valley Mine, as the BLM called for the first-ever mitigation measures in southeast Idaho’s phosphate patch. We’re pleased by this development, as this type of habitat improvement – spending money to enhance elk and deer habitat offsite in exchange for expanding a mine onsite – could set a precedent for other companies mining phosphate in southeastern Idaho.

The Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust will act as an independent, non-profit organization that will oversee implementation of the funds by convening a group of natural resource, land management, and Tribal trustees, known as the Habitat Improvement Team (HIT). The HIT aims to protect, conserve, and/or enhance wildlife habitat in southeast Idaho, with emphasis on projects around the Rasmussen Valley Mine, and they will soon be accepting proposals.

“(It’s) a great day, and a great opportunity,” said Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust Executive Director Matt Lucia. We couldn’t agree more. We’re hoping that this work will mean that other companies seeking to mine phosphate in southeast Idaho will create similar mitigation funds.

While Greater Yellowstone Coalition is not an official member of the HIT, we’re working closely with the Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust and other HIT members to select and implement projects with meaningful conservation gains. We’re looking forward to doing what we can to make the HIT a success, so we can all pave the way for additional mitigation funds that will continue to protect the lands of southeastern Idaho.

We’ll keep you posted about the new projects coming online. Thank you for supporting GYC’s work in Idaho.

-- Allison Michalski, Idaho Conservation Associate