Montana U.S. Sen. John Walsh on Thursday introduced a bill that would protect from development East Rosebud Creek in the Beartooth Mountains under the Wild and Scenic Act.

The bill is the result of support for a wild and scenic designation from Friends of East Rosebud, residents and other organizations that want to protect the creek from possible development in the area, said a spokeswoman for Walsh.

The Friends of East Rosebud has been working for the designation for several years and members recently visited lawmakers in Washington, D.C. The group also held a well-attended meeting on the issue in Billings in April. Walsh, a Democrat, along with representatives for Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., attended the meeting.

The latest protection effort comes after a Bozeman company last year allowed to expire its preliminary permit to build two small hydroelectric projects on East and West Rosebud creeks.

East Rosebud Creek begins in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and flows to the Yellowstone River. The creek is considered part of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

The bill would designate two segments of the creek under the act. One segment is a 13-mile stretch from the creek’s source to East Rosebud Lake and a second segment is a seven-mile stretch from the outlet at the lake downstream to where it enters private property for the first time.

The entire stretch is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, so no private land is affected, Walsh’s office said. The agency already has established that the two segments are eligible for the designation.

The U.S. Geological Survey also has determined there is no potential for oil and gas development in the proposed designated area.

Montana has four wild and scenic rivers, including a 150-mile stretch of the Upper Missouri and the three forks of the Upper Flathead River. All four were protected in 1976.

Under the act, a river may be designated as wild, scenic or recreational.

Designation does not prohibit development or give the federal government ownership of the land if the land is private.

Historic uses of the land, including agricultural practices, may continue. However, designation prohibits federal support for dam construction and other activities that would degrade water quality or alter the free-flowing condition of the waterway.

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Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.