I’m a fiscally-conservative, socially-liberal, mostly-Republican born and raised Montanan, with a tourism business in Paradise Valley and a long-standing technology executive.
I’ve been heavily involved in the day-to-day efforts, including several meetings with each member of the Montana delegation to protect Paradise Valley from recent job-killing proposals to develop gold mines in Park County. This is one of my first public statements to my fellow Montanans.
In a Sept. 27 Associated Press article in The Billings Gazette regarding Secretary of The Interior Ryan Zinke’s recommendations on national monuments, oil and gas attorney William Pendley conflates proposed monuments in the Badger-Two Medicine region of the northwest Montana with two mining withdrawals around Yellowstone National Park. The first withdrawal was in 1996 near Cooke City and the other is currently under way for two areas just north of the park.
Pendley claims how, “terribly disappointing” it is that the secretary is focused on his numerous commitments to the people of Montana to stop gold mining on the border of Yellowstone and not spending his time repealing the Antiquities Act. The efforts to protect the Yellowstone Gateway have nothing to do with the Antiquities Act as Pendley seems to think. Secretary Zinke is supporting a 20-year timeout he has authority over as leader of the Department of Interior. Legislation, the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, introduced by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is currently working its way through Congress to make that protection permanent so our kids are not stuck with a battle they shouldn’t have to fight. These protections to the world’s first national park, our beloved Yellowstone River and the economic engine that drives over $196 million in annual nonvisitor spending in Park County alone, has been asked for by me, my neighbors and more than 370 like-minded businesses in the region and beyond.
The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition is comprised of red and blue party affiliations including libertarians and independents as far apart as you can imagine on most issues dividing this country today. But we remain united in our love and respect for the Paradise Valley, the Greater Yellowstone region and the tenants of community and personal freedom. Elected officials at every level have listened and are working hard to provide the permanent assurances the people of Montana and our visitors need to know: that our healthy economy and quality of life are secure.
Zinke and Tester have listened to us for which we are grateful. Even that stalwart of western political power, the local county commission, unanimously stands with us.
Pendley and any others wishing to meddle with the gateway to Yellowstone, our healthy economy and way of life need to listen up and pay attention to the property rights and business interests of all. From what we have heard from our fellow Montanans, and the nearly 4 million annual visitors to Yellowstone who come from around the world, no one is interested in putting the water resources of the upper Yellowstone River basin nor the quality of life on the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park at risk. No one is interested in the thousands of mining trucks littering our roads that would be necessary if allowed to exploit the low-grade dirty ore they seek.
If our political leaders, business community, and citizens of the great state of Montana unite to protect our economic golden goose — Yellowstone National Park and the Yellowstone River — we at least stand a chance to move legislation for permanent protection forward and prove to Pendley and his extraction industry what we, and most of the world, already believes — Yellowstone is more valuable than gold.
Reed lives in Emigrant, Montana.