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Know the West

Don't trust the mining industry, says a retired rancher


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Retired rancher Land Lindbergh doesn't encourage casual visitors. His ranch is in a secluded canyon along the Blackfoot River, protected by four miles of unmarked dirt road and several locked gates. But once you find him, he is so warm that writer David James Duncan compared him to "Mother Teresa, coming after miners in such a kind way."

Land Lindbergh: "The timber industry has made some real efforts to clean up their act. Agriculture has, too. But I don't think the mining industry has. For the most part they do the minimum required to meet the law.

"The industry has a horrible history, one the public remembers. They didn't do a good job; they left a mess.

"Right now, it's a war. Mining is a highly emotional issue, very personal among the major players, and these strong feelings go back a long way. People are bitter and angry.

"I was really hoping the governor was going to step in and say, "OK, guys, you have a lot of environmental concerns here. We need to work out whatever we can and quit going through this holy war." I am not opposed to gold mining. We're going to have mines up there, there is no way we are going to avoid that. But we are saying if you are going to mine, you have to toe the line.

"The river's got a job to do in this valley. Flushing, cleaning out this valley. All of us are loading it up. I start wondering how much more it can handle. They want to use this river to clean that mine.

"What it might take is for some people to die before people start sitting up and saying, 'Take that pollution out of rivers.' We may have to have some crises that people can relate to, like the Milltown Dam going out."