It’s up to us. Time is short for Sen. Steve Daines to support the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act and for Rep. Gianforte to introduce a companion bill in the House on this single-issue, permanent withdrawal of federal mineral rights on 30,000 acres of public land in the Custer Gallatin National Forest adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. Private citizens, a coalition of 400 local businesses and other organizations, Park County Commissioners, local elected officials, as well as Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke have communicated in support of federal mining rights withdrawal on public lands close to Yellowstone.
Unfortunately, Daines just announced he would introduce a bill that would release about 500,000 acres of Montana Wilderness Study Areas tacked onto mining rights withdrawal in Paradise Valley. Although he plans to introduce this bill by year’s end, none of the WSAs have been identified. Pairing these two very different issues is unacceptable.
What’s at stake? With a Canadian mining company ready to explore for gold on private land in Emigrant Gulch near Chico Hot Springs, action is needed now to prevent potential mine expansion into public lands. Economic drivers of our economy are changing. Montana’s treasure is evolving from reliance on extractive industries to the economic values of clean air and water, tourism, recreation and other amenities produced by public lands such as national parks and monuments, Wilderness areas and WSAs.
What to do? Increase pressure on our congressional delegation by strengthening bipartisan support for the YGPA and public processes that examine each WSA separately. Communicate with those you know across the state and encourage contacting Daines (202-224-2651) and Rep. Gianforte (202-225-3211) to support the single-issue Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act. It’s up to us to support our public lands now and in the future.