In 1992 Idaho’s Bucktail and Blackbird creeks looked like bad acid trips, running shades of neon blue and green. Neighboring Panther Creek had formed a lethal “chemical dam” and all three streams were devoid of salmon, trout, and insects. Regional biologist Chris Mebane says, “It was about as lifeless as you can get outside of an autoclave.” This was the result of a hundred years of unchecked mining in the Salmon River Basin.

After testimony from Mebane and a legal agreement between NOAA and several mining companies the $50 million Blackbird Mine cleanup began in 1995. Slowly life returned. Rainbow trout repopulated all three creeks, bug populations climbed and, with a hatchery plant kick start, chinook now spawn in Panther Creek.

Mebane is cautiously optimistic, “This place has always been a cautionary tale: If you’re building a new mine, don’t let this happen to you,” he says. “But it’s a story of hope and redemption, too. You can put Humpty-Dumpty back together again—even if Humpty-Dumpty ends up with some scar tissue.”

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Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.

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