Once Upon A Mine: The Story of the Proposed Otter Creek Coal Mine, Act I

Once upon a mine, in a land far, far away, called Canada, a big mining company named Noranda started a small mining company called Crown Butte Mines. Crown Butte wanted to mine deep into the Beartooth Mountains in Montana for gold, silver and copper.  But the place they wanted to mine was special to people and right next to Yellowstone National Park. The People became very angry. Then it went a little something like this.*

Once Upon A Mine: Act I

[Enter The People and President Bill Clinton] The People: No. And by no we mean hell no. President Bill Clinton: Oh, really? Is that not cool? The People: Not cool. President Bill Clinton: You're right. Yellowstone National Park is too important. All the wildlife, the water....I get it. We should stop that from happening. I'll take care of it. The People: Cool. Years pass. Lawsuits are filed. People are organized. The Clinton Administration goes into long negotiations with the mining company. Finally, an agreement is reached and the Federal government agrees to give Crown Butte $65 million dollars worth of land and minerals and cash in exchange for the divestiture of Crown Butte's interest in the mine site. President Bill Clinton: Success! I saved Yellowstone National Park! That should make me very popular with the ladies. [Montana Governor Marc Racicot enters the stage from the back.] Montana Governor Marc Racicot: Hey! Clinton!  Stay out of our business, we need that tax revenue!! And jobs!!! [The entire Department of Interior sighs heavily at the same moment which leads to a split second increase in the amount of carbon in the atmosphere in Washington D.C., contributing to climate change.] President Bill Clinton: Fine. How about $10 million dollars? Montana Governor Marc Racicot:  NO! We want coal tracts in southeastern Montana, specifically federal coal tracts in the pristine and agricultural Otter Creek valley. [Enter Jim Mockler, Executive Director of the Montana Coal Council] Jim Mockler: Psst...Marc...come here for a second. Umm...you should really take the money. That coal would already be developed if it was economical. Take the money and run. Run Marc Run! Montana Governor Marc Racicot:  Shut up Jim. [Turns to Clinton] We want the coal tracts. President Bill Clinton: Fine, I don't like this but take the coal tracts. [Meanwhile in southeastern Montana.] Northern Cheyenne Tribe:  WTF! Seriously? State of Montana and Department of Interior (under the 2nd Bush Administration): Yeah.... Northern Cheyenne Tribe: So, you protect Yellowstone National Park and we get screwed? Really??? State of Montana and Department of Interior (Bush Administration): Sorry but not sorry. Northern Cheyenne Tribe: We'll see you in court. To be fair to Clinton, he tried to remove the transfer provision from the bill in a line item veto which was later overturned by the Supreme Court. But, regardless, it happened. Faced with the prospect of massive coal development on its border, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe sued the Department of Interior to stop the transfer of the Otter Creek coal tracts to the state of Montana until their environmental, social and cultural concerns were dealt with. The Tribe stated in the complaint Northern Cheyenne Tribe v. Norton,
Development of the Otter Creek coal resources would impose severe environmental, socio-economic and cultural impacts on the tribe and its members.
The Tribe found it necessary to file suit to assure that its (mitigation) settlement effort would not be thwarted by an unannounced transfer of the tracts . The Tribe then agreed to dismiss the complaint, with prejudice, against Department of Interior with the signing of the Northern Cheyenne Settlement Agreement between the Montana State Board of Land Commissioners and The Northern Cheyenne Tribe on February 19, 2002.

Coming Up In Act II of Once Upon A Mine: Broken Promises and the Northern Cheyenne Settlement Agreement

* Major events, lawsuits and people have been completely ignored in my creative interpretation of events. And if you don't like it, write your own play. I'll publish it. Otter Creek Map              

4 Comments on “Once Upon A Mine: The Story of the Proposed Otter Creek Coal Mine, Act I

  1. One of the best synopsis of the whole story. Usually, we only get parts of the story. Deals were cut by supposedly good people on all sides, setting horrible land management precedents that only line conservations a 100 years ago would have choked on.

    • Hey Dave, You have inspired me to start working on Act II. I’ll post it soon. Cheers! Alexis

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