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Growing up fishing and guiding on the Flathead river I know well the good that comes from protecting our water.

My home river, the Middle Fork of the Flathead, serves as the southern border of Glacier National Park and is protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which preserves its water quality and scenic values. The benefits of that protection ripple outward to the community.

Fisheries stay strong. Water stays clean. Business booms. What’s good for the water is good for the community.

Which is why supporting Initiative 186 is a black-and-white issue for me. Requiring mining companies seeking new permits to prove that they will not leave acid mine drainage and toxic metals seeping into our rivers and streams after they close their doors is simply the right thing to do for the citizens of Montana. Having respect for our water quality and ecosystem should not just be for those who feel like “opting in.” There’s no grey area in that for me.

As the executive director of Casting for Recovery, I get the privilege of introducing fly fishing to hundreds of women facing breast cancer each year. Many are learning to fish for the first time and experiencing all of the healing properties that nature provides. Fly fishing not only serves as an outlet for these women, but often, a gateway to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with the outdoors.

But it doesn’t take much to upset that natural balance and irresponsible decisions by some mining companies can unravel a good thing. As written, our laws do not go far enough to protect our rivers and streams.

As an angler I am also a steward. And being a steward means standing up for the resource not just for my benefit, but for all who utilize this precious resource.

Water is everything in the West. We must not take it for granted. Let’s pass I-186 in November.

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Whitney Milhoan is the executive director of Casting For Recovery. Learn more about I-186 at yeson186.org.

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