Project will bolster high-paying jobs, minimize environmental footprint

SODA SPRINGS — The Bureau of Land Management Idaho Falls District and USDA Forest Service Caribou-Targhee National Forest today each released a record of decision approving portions of the East Smoky Panel Mine and Reclamation Plan under their jurisdiction. The J.R. Simplot Company proposed expanding the Smoky Canyon Mine into the East Smoky Panel using a design intended to reduce certain impacts associated with the phosphate mining process.

“Phosphate mining in Southeast Idaho is critical to provide minerals for use in products that support agriculture, wildfire suppression, and other industries in Idaho and elsewhere and to contribute to the region’s economy,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley. “This joint decision will ensure that these benefits continue for years to come.”

The East Smoky Panel Mine Project will sustain approximately 600 jobs for an additional three years at Simplot’s existing Smoky Canyon Mine and Don Plant processing facility, generating approximately $180 million per year in associated salaries and indirectly supporting 1,326 jobs in the region.

“The decision strikes a balance between resource extraction and conservation while providing opportunities for high-paying jobs in the local community,” said Mary D’Aversa, BLM Idaho Falls district manager. “We are pleased that we were able to work with the USFS, Simplot and the public to come to a decision that provides for responsible phosphate mining.”

The BLM and the USFS used the Final East Smoky Panel Mine Environmental Impact Statement to make separate, coordinated decisions related to the proposed project. The ROD released by the BLM approves the Mine and Reclamation Plan, modifies the existing Smoky Canyon Mine and Reclamation Plan and enlarges the existing leases.

The USFS provided recommendations to the BLM regarding surface management on leased National Forest System lands. The USFS ROD approves special use authorizations for off-lease activities and approves amendments to its land-use plan to add management prescriptions and designate utility corridors.

Electronic copies of the RODs and Final EIS are available on the BLM Land Use Planning and NEPA Register at go.usa.gov/xfxSC and on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest Current and Recent Projects website at fs.usda.gov/projects/ctnf/landmanagement/projects.

For further information, contact Kyle Free at the BLM Pocatello Field Office at 208-478-6352 or kfree@blm.gov.