Nirth Idaho Lifestyles Magazine - Your source of North Idaho Information>>
Back to
Back to Lifestyle home page
Keep Idaho Green
Help Prevent Forest Fires
Oil and Water Project
Educating the World
Community Art
Fountain of Wishes
Who's Who in Idaho
Sam Wormington
Cabinet Resource Group
The Roar of Falling Water
Water Falls in North Idaho
Storm Clouds of Pend Oreille lake
Feature on the state of the lake
Creative Writing
The Mark of Mello
 In dogged pursuit of higher education
Home Sweet Home
The studio of sustainable design
Coldwater Creek's New Home
Colossal Changes for The Creek
Endless Summer
Windsurfing the Lakes
Featured Artist
Robert Grimes
Restaurant Spotlight
Dining on Sandcreek
On Stage
Open Mic at the Downtown Crossing
Frame of Mind
Bringing Rock to North Idaho
Coeur d'Alene Jazz
The Rebirth of the CDA Jazz Fest
hydroelectric dam on the Kootenai River at Kootenai Falls – the last free-flowing waterfall in the Columbia River system; Cabinet Resource Group, The Cabinet Resource Group didn’t organize against mining; instead, its members took a stand for clean water and protection of the environment and the lifestyles that generations of area residents had come to enjoy Cabinet Resource Group,Bill Martin,Lincoln County,hydroelectric dam,Kootenai River,Kootenai Falls,Lake Creek,Art Shelden,mining,environmental,wildlife,Rock Creek Alliance,Sandpoint Idaho,Bull River Outdoor Education Center,Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

"Thirty Years Old and Still Kicking Butt"
By Jane Fritz


Cabinet Resource Group

 His motivation was pure and simple. All that Bill Martin wanted was a decent drink of water. He had left the San Francisco Bay area looking for a new life in the mountains of northwest Montana. Burned out from fighting environmental battles to protect California’s remaining clean water, he escaped city life, bought land near Troy in Lincoln County and built a log home along pristine Lake Creek. He got a job planting trees for the Forest Service, and the Vietnam veteran settled down to what he hoped would be the good life. But life today, like clean drinking water, is not that simple.
  Martin soon learned of plans to build a hydroelectric dam on the Kootenai River at Kootenai Falls – the last free-flowing waterfall in the Columbia River system and downstream from his home. And then he got news of a proposal to build a hard-rock silver and copper mine nearby. A mine brought with it the promise of jobs and prosperity to a community suffering from the decline of timber profits; there was one problem, though, the mine’s 300-plus acre tailings impoundment would be located adjacent to Lake Creek, upstream of Martin’s new home. An earthen dam would be all that would separate Lake Creek’s pristine water from mining wastes. He wanted anonymity, not re-entry into citizen activism, but the water quality of his and his children’s source of drinking water was made vulnerable.
  He had no choice but to get involved. He wrote a letter to the editor in the local paper raising concerns about the mine and asking others to join him in the cause. He was 29-years-old at the time, an urban refugee and a newcomer to the blue-collar community of Troy. He set up a meeting date and issued a call to organize around protecting water quality and wondered if anyone would show up.
  As he tells it: “The first response came on a bright afternoon as I was seeding freshly turned beds, and a late-model Lincoln – no dents or cracked glass, nothing like anyone I knew would be driving – pulled up. An old guy with balding white hair, glasses and a suit, got out, came up to me and asked if I was who I was and introduced himself as Art Shelden, Montana state representative.
He’d read my letter, and wanted to meet me. In spite of my rudeness, he saw the promise of possibility and came to the meeting.”

  So did a lot of other older folks; and, as a result, the Cabinet Resource Group was born. Martin says that over half the people that showed up at that first meeting were sons, daughters or grandchildren of those who built the communities of northwest Montana. Descendents of homesteaders, loggers, a well known librarian who would later help pull together a monthly newsletter, a Marine Corps retiree and one of the first teachers in Troy, Nola Sloan, who energetically wrote letters to government officials on every issue until near the end of her life at 103 years.

  Now, 30 years later, most of these original CRG members are gone, but Martin is still here and currently president of the group. He talks about those original members with more than fond nostalgia. He intends “to refute the pernicious misperception that ‘environmentalists’ are all newcomers, outsiders and not part of the traditional culture of the area.” These early members not only defined CRG’s principles and goals - short and long-term - but their strong connection to place and its mountains, rivers, and streams was a major factor in the organization’s continuity to the present day.

  The Cabinet Resource Group didn’t organize against mining; instead, its members took a stand for clean water and protection of the environment and the lifestyles that generations of area residents had come to enjoy.

“We’ve never tried to be against anything,” Martin says. “We just wanted to have a strong voice in decisions affecting our lives.” Although the dam at Kootenai Falls was stopped (now it’s a popular scenic area), the Troy Mine was eventually built. It began round-the clock operations in 1981 until it was mothballed in 1993. It is currently owned by the Revette Silver Company, the same company that proposes to build the Rock Creek Mine in the Cabinet Wilderness near Noxon, in neighboring Sanders County and upstream of the Clark Fork River and North Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille.
  Along with water quality issues associated with the Troy Mine, in 1982 the proposed Rock Creek Mine became a key issue for members of CRG to scrutinize. Sanders County property owner Cesar Hernandez joined Martin,
and others, to help tackle the proposed mine and has remained active ever since.

 After years of absorbing reams of environmental and mining documents and hundreds of hours doing research and attending hearings and meetings, Hernandez, Martin and the other CRG members remain undaunted, despite the fact that the future of the mine is still in limbo.

  You do what you believe is necessary in order to protect water, wildlife and the land, Hernandez says. “It’s been more than 20 years.

I’ll do it for another 20 years. No sweat.”

  Martin believes it’s this persevering attitude that has kept a bad mine from being built. It also helped spawn the Sandpoint based organization, the Rock Creek Alliance, the lead group addressing the environmental concerns of the proposed mine for Idaho. The activism of both groups has occasionally taken them to court and they’ve won important legal battles on water issues; but lawsuits are a last resort.

  Thirty years later, the Cabinet Resource Group has a membership of several hundred people. It’s still very concerned with water quality issues, but over the decades it has branched out into forest planning issues, wilderness protection, sustainable economic growth and community development matters and environmental education. Every year the Bull River Outdoor Education Center, in cooperation
with the U.S. Forest Service, offers youth and adults several organized opportunities to make learning about and experiencing nature a great deal of fun; and CRG’s interest in wilderness helped spawn another group headquartered in Sandpoint, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. Turns out that Bill Martin is on its board of directors and is likely to be along for some of the great hikes for the public planned by the group this summer.

  Now in his early 60s, Bill Martin says the Cabinet Resource Group is strong and confident, but needs to attract more young people to carry on its important work for generations to come.

  “No matter what,” he says, “we need to keep the water clean.”

Cabinet Resource Group, P.O. Box 238, Heron, MT

Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness
P.O. Box 2061, Sandpoint, ID 83864.

Rock Creek Alliance -
1319 N. Division, Suite 108, Sandpoint, ID 83864.

North Idaho Information | | | |
Sandpoint Idaho Arial Photo Guide

________Copyright 1998-2006 by - All rights reserved