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Emigrant descent

A skier telemarks down a bowl on the east side of Emigrant Peak in March 2016 during a backcountry ski tour. The mountain rises to an elevation of 10,921 feet and has been a target of skiers since at least the 1950s.

East Rosebud Creek is closer to the Wild and Scenic Rivers protection neighbors have long sought, thanks to all three members of Montana's congressional delegation.

On Wednesday, legislation reintroduced earlier this year by Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines passed the Senate. Montana's senators jointly announced the Senate approval.

Now the House needs to approve Rep. Greg Gianforte’s East Rosebud Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (H.R.4645), which he introduced on Dec. 14. As noted in a Dec. 11, Gazette opinion, Gianforte needed to sponsor a House bill to boost the prospects of this Beartooth Mountains stream being designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Gianforte’s office told The Gazette that he would introduce an East Rosebud bill soon, and he did so.

“In some areas, the best use of our natural resources and treasures is conservation and recreation,” Gianforte said in a press release. “This standard applies to the East Rosebud Creek.”

The Senate and House bills would apply the Wild and Scenic designation to two stretches of the creek totaling 20 miles of waterway — both entirely on public lands in the Custer National Forest. The designation would not apply to East Rosebud Lake where there are private cabins.

Hunters, anglers, hikers and conservationists applauded Gianforte’s bill and Thursday's Senate success.

East Rosebud neighbors are hoping that the stream can be protected in must-pass legislation yet this year. However, the bills Gianforte and the senators proposed could still pass in 2018. The sooner, the better for this clear, cold trout stream that nourishes a valley filled with pine and wildlife.

The same day as he announced his East Rosebud bill, Gianforte introduced another measure that Montanans have been seeking for years: the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act (H.R. 4644). Gianforte’s bill would put 30,000 acres of national forest land north of Yellowstone Park off limits to mining development permanently.

At the request of Montanans who live and work in the area, Tester introduced legislation earlier this year to withdraw those same lands from mineral development. As Tester and Gianforte have recognized, action is urgently needed. Two mining companies with foreign investors have proposed exploration and development of gold mines, one along Crevice Mountain on Yellowstone’s northern border east of Gardiner; the other in Emigrant Gulch further north in Paradise Valley.

Like their Park County constituents, Tester and Gianforte cited the tremendous value of the outdoor economy and agriculture in this area.

Gianforte’s press release says he is “working with my colleagues in the House to build consensus to get this bill passed.”

The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act still lacks Daines’ support. He hasn’t signed onto Tester’s protection act and told proponents of the Yellowstone Gateway Act that their coalition needed to support his Wilderness Study Area release bill if they wanted his support for the mineral withdrawal.

Tester and Gianforte’s Yellowstone Gateway bills properly propose what Montanans have asked: permanent protection for specific public lands that have high recreational and agricultural value because of their proximity to Yellowstone Park and the Upper Yellowstone River.

We urge Daines to join the rest of the delegation in advocating for permanently barring development of publicly owned minerals at Emigrant Gulch and Crevice Mountain. It’s the right thing to do — with no strings attached.

The East Rosebud Wild and Scenic Act, once again, has unanimous support of the Montana delegation. Yet it will require all three lawmakers to push it to the president’s desk. It’s been more than 40 years since a Montana waterway was protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

We call on Gianforte, Daines and Tester to work toward enacting laws on both Rosebud Creek and Yellowstone Gateway by early 2018.

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