U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., introduced a bill Thursday to protect East Rosebud Creek in Carbon County under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

The bill, which mirrors legislation introduced in the Senate in May by U.S. Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., would protect two segments of the creek.

The first segment is a 13-mile stretch from the pristine creek’s origin to East Rosebud Lake. The second segment begins below the East Rosebud Lake outlet to the point seven miles downstream where the creek enters private property for the first time.

The group Friends of the East Rosebud has been spearheading efforts to gain the wild and scenic designation. Concerns about hydroelectric projects on the creek sparked the recent interest for federal protection. Preliminary permits for those projects expired last year.

“We greatly appreciate that Rep. Daines has introduced legislation to protect the East Rosebud Creek. This area is a special place where many of us have chosen to live and raise our families — some have been here for generations,” said Frank Annighofer, vice president of the Friends organization.

The East Rosebud attracts hundreds of visitors and offers outdoor recreation opportunities. The area also provides economic benefits to local communities.

“I spent much of my youth backpacking in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness — hiking The Beaten Path and summiting Granite Peak,” Daines said in a news release on Friday. “I want to preserve Montana’s unparalleled natural beauty and way of life so my children and grandchildren can do the same,” he said.

“The East Rosebud Wild and Scenic Rivers Act will protect one of Montana’s special places. I will continue fighting for balanced policies to conserve our natural heritage while improving access and management of our public lands,” Daines said.

A spokeswoman for Daines said it was unclear when the bill would get a hearing.

The U.S. Geological Survey has determined there is no potential for oil and gas development under the land being considered for protection.

No private property would be included for protection under either Daines’ or Walsh’s bills.

A Senate committee held a hearing in July on Walsh’s bill.

East Rosebud Creek begins in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and eventually flows to the Yellowstone River. The last time a Montana river was added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was in 1976. The state has four wild and scenic rivers — a 150-mile stretch of the Upper Missouri and three forks of the Upper Flathead River. All of those waterways were protected in 1976.

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Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.