Selenium poisoning is becoming a major problem in SE Idaho-

The number of wildlife that die is unknown.

There are many abandoned and active phosphate mines in SE Idaho. A major battle to stop the expansion of one was recently lost by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. A new state of the art mine that is claimed will produce no selenium runoff at all is about to begin on the edge of  the Blackfoot River. It’s the Blackfoot Bridge Mine. On the positive side, the mine will provide some public access to the Blackfoot River in a stretch where was closed (private property).

I have posted many stories about the selenium. Not many people read them. It seems a bit hard to stir up interest.

Idaho business news
Cattle deaths in Caribou Co. attributed to selenium poisoning.
by Mark Mendiola

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

10 Responses to Cattle deaths in Caribou Co, Idaho, attributed to selenium poisoning

  1. JW says:

    I guess wolves are more dramatic in the way they kill. Pretty amazing that this isn’t a story when these types of deaths (not even incl. disease which is a far greater cause of death) are likely more common than wolf kills….

  2. monty says:

    Ralph, I don’t think it is lack of concern about “mine poisoning” but rather that there are so many depressing “ecological issues” that come to the forefront on a daily basis that one’s mind needs a rest. Or as Edward Abbey wrote: “Be a part time environmental fanatic & the rest of the time get drunk”. Or Aldo Leopold wrote something to the effect: “those without an “ecological conscience” are fortunate”.

  3. Eric T. says:

    Zero comments on the article in Idaho’s largest legacy print media:

  4. Eric T.

    There was a major story in the largest SE newspaper today. Most of its news is not put on-line.

    The truth is southeast Idaho, where I live, is an obscure place in minds of most, even including Idahoans.

  5. mikepost says:

    Ralph, next time just make a slip of the keyboard and call it
    “wild horse deaths attributed to selenium poisoning” and see what happens…

    Question: should there not be associated wildlife deaths in the same locations???

  6. jimbob says:

    I guess wildlife services better hunt down the mine owners and workers and “remove” them lethally. We all know the punishment for dead cows……

  7. Alan Gregory says:

    A nicely-written look at at a high-altitude research study involving cattle in northern New Mexico at

  8. Nancy says:

    Coming in VERY late to say that I read a story in ISJ this morning (Oct 25, 2009) about a ranch near the mine that is very troubled by Simplot wanting to do more phosphate mining in that area. Alas, I had a hardcopy to read only and had to hand it back. Any input on this, Ralph?

    It was quite disturbing . . .

  9. Nancy,

    This has been unfolding for almost 5 years now.

    The ranch and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition have tried every legal avenue they can to stop the expansion of the Simplot mine, but Idaho’s political establishment has uniformly supported the mining company. So the ranch, the water quality, grazing, wildlife, etc., lose.

  10. Nancy says:

    Now I’m the goof. THIS is part of what The Greater Yellowstone Coalition has been focusing on. I don’t hear much about SE Idaho over here in Boise (which in and of itself is another issue that needs to be better bridged) but I’m from SE Idaho (ISU for undergraduate with a minor–just about a full degree–in Poli Sci and it’s a shame I didn’t take a class from you) and this is a huge concern and should be for more than just SE Idaho and Twin Falls. I hate to see people, stock, and the land in danger because of a couple hundred jobs. With unemployment so high a couple hundred won’t even begin to make a dent in this situation.

    I’m sorry I haven’t been more involved. I’m going to look into what I can do to help. Thanks recapping this situation for me and I’ll be tuned in now.



‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey