The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council has weighed in on the issue of coal trains with a unanimous vote against supporting one such project.
On Monday September 21 the council voted to oppose the project known as the Tongue River Railroad, a key link in shipping coal by rail from southeast Montana to the Northwest, the Billings Gazette reported.
The fear is that such a project would threaten sacred sites as well as hunting and fishing grounds by opening up the southeastern part of the state to coal surface mining, the Billings Gazette said. Arch Coal, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad and the candy bar company Forrest Mars are proposing a $403 million railroad to transport coal, the Billings Gazette said.
“We’re talking about the effects that would burden and stress the local resources that we have and the cultural and environmental affects that it would have,” Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council member Conrad Fisher told the Billings Gazette. “Understand that those are all integrated. We need to see them as part of the fabric of our native heritage. I don’t want to say there’s one more important than the other. They’re integrated.”
Coal terminals are already being opposed by numerous Northwest tribes, including the Lummi and Quinault.
About 20 million tons of coal annually would be transported along the rail line from a mine being planned by Arch Coal near the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, the Great Falls Tribune said.