Montanans take to the ballot

  In Montana, where author Norman Maclean was haunted by moving waters, a new coalition of sportsmen, ranchers and environmentalists hopes voters will approve a fall ballot initiative toughening the state's water quality laws. If passed, the initiative could create significant new challenges for two large-scale mining projects, one proposed for a site near Yellowstone National Park, the other near the headwaters of the Blackfoot River.


The coalition, which calls itself Montanans for Clean Water, says its initiative is a moderate response to the 1995 Legislature's lowering of water-quality standards. The mining industry says the initiative is anti-mining.


Gary Buchanan, former director of the Montana Department of Commerce and co-chair of the coalition with rancher Francis Bardanouve, disagrees. "Neither Francis nor I would be involved if we felt the initiative would kill all mining in Montana," he says. Buchanan says the new standards would require modern mines to use the best available technologies to protect state waters.


Once state officials approve the initiative's wording, the group has until June 21 to gather signatures of 20,392 registered voters.


Duncan Adams


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