A Beautiful and Remote Home for Wildlife

Mule deer, white-tail deer, pronghorn antelope, elk and hundreds of bird species including eagles make their home in the Tongue River and Otter Creek valleys in Montana. This wildlife-rich region is also adjacent to a black-footed ferret reintroduction site on the Northern Cheyenne reservation.

The region is beautiful and remote—and has immense historical and cultural treasures as many different tribes moved through the area for thousands and thousands of years to live and hunt. Dozens of sacred burial sites still remain, undisturbed and intertwined with the natural world.

mule deer
The Tongue River and Otter Creek valleys provide pristine habitat for mule deer. Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Kathy Rowland.

The Impacts of a Proposed Coal Railroad

Now imagine a railroad slicing through the valleys, carrying coal from an immense new mine dug out of the Otter Creek Valley. The land is blasted with dynamite to loosen the top soil and then massive drag lines and heavy equipment are brought in to remove it.  The impacts will be massive:

  • The earth will shake from blasting, sometimes causing toxic orange clouds to form.
  • Pristine habitat will be fragmented and destroyed—then what’s left will be degraded by pollution from mining operations.
  • Streams and springs will be destroyed and groundwater depleted
  • Wildlife-vehicle collisions will increase due to the thousands of additional vehicles and trucks on rural highways in southeastern Montana.
  • Poaching will increase due to increased access from new roads.
  • Sacred sites and burial sites of Native American Tribes will be lost or degraded.

We also know that the mining and burning of coal from the new mine will ominously contribute billions of tons of carbon into our atmosphere, harming wildlife and people.

These impacts are not just possible, they are inevitable if the Tongue River Railroad is built.

Otter Creek, Montana
View of Otter Creek, Montana. Photo by Colin Ruggiero.

Putting Wildlife at Risk by Mining Coal and Shipping it to Asia

The era of coal is dying, but coal companies don’t recognize their impending demise. They continue to propose new coal mines and rail transit so they can ship coal to Asia. Right now, the financially shaky Arch Coal Company is leading an effort for the construction of the Tongue River Railroad in Southeastern Montana.

The only reason to build this railroad is so the Arch Coal Company can develop the Otter Creek Coal Mine – which would be the biggest coal mine in the country. Without the railroad, there is no way to get the coal out of the region; without the mine, there is no need for a new rail line.

Take ActionYou can help! Please urge the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to say NO to the Tongue River Railroad and the devastating effects of coal mining on mule deer, pronghorn and all wildlife in the region.