A view of East Rosebud Creek

A view of East Rosebud Creek looking south toward the Beartooth Mountains.

An East Rosebud Creek protection bill got a hearing before a U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday with Montana Sen. John Walsh testifying in support of the measure he’s sponsoring.

Speaking before the senate’s Energy and Natural Resource Committee, Walsh said his bill, SB 2392, would designate two sections of the creek totaling 20 miles under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.

The committee took no action on the bill and it was unclear when the committee would vote on the measure, a Walsh spokeswoman said.

“What it would do, and what Montanans want, is to protect the free-flowing and pristine nature of the creek against future diversions and dams,” Walsh said in a prepared statement.

East Rosebud Creek begins in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and flows to the Yellowstone River via the Stillwater River.

All of the proposed land for designation is federal land, Walsh said. A designation would not impact private land around East Rosebud Lake, he added.

Private developers have proposed using the creek three separate times for power, but all of the proposals have “been shelved,” he said.

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This latest effort to protect East Rosebud Creek comes after a Bozeman company last year allowed the expiration of its preliminary permit to build two small hydroelectric projects on East and West Rosebud creeks.

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

Recreational and agricultural uses of the creek would continue under a wild and scenic designation, Walsh said.

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Protecting the East Rosebud, he said, would mean the creek will continue to attract recreationists and visitors who will stay, eat and shop in local communities like Billings, Roscoe, Columbus and Red Lodge.

Walsh also noted that no Montana river has been added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System since 1976. Montana 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.

Walsh said he introduced the bill after meeting with local constituents in Washington attending a meeting in Billings in which he said he was “overwhelmed by the broad support” for a designation.

Members of Friends of East Rosebud met with Walsh in Washington and organized the Billings meeting. The organization has been working for several years to protect the creek.

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Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.