Gazette Opinion: Daines holds key to Yellowstone Gateway protection – Billings Gazette, June 25, 2018

Paradise Valley in Emigrant, MT. Photo by Northern Plains

The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act is a great example of how legislation should be written.

The bill introduced in the Senate by Jon Tester and in the House by Greg Gianforte began in Paradise Valley — the northern gateway to Yellowstone National Park. After two foreign-owned companies started making plans to mine in the valley near Emigrant and on the border of Yellowstone just east of Gardiner, local people studied the issue. They concluded that large-scale mining would be a great detriment to the recreation, tourism and agriculture they depend on for their livelihoods and quality of life.

So residents of Park County appealed to the Montana delegation to withdraw 30,000 acres of national forest land from mineral leasing. Tester, Gianforte and Sen. Steve Daines each met with proponents of the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act. Tester introduced the legislation in the Senate last year and supported it at a hearing last summer. Gianforte introduced an identical bill in the House and testified at a hearing Thursday that the Paradise Valley land is “a national treasure” and a place where it “doesn’t make sense to mine.”

Daines has said he supports the gateway protection, but so far has blocked it. The bill isn’t going to move out of the Senate or be attached to must-pass legislation without our Republican senator’s approval.

Daines should move Tester’s Senate bill out of the committee Daines chairs before the Senate starts its August recess. It should be passed without changes or amendments — no strings attached. This bill is a clear, specific request from Montana constituents: Protect Paradise Valley public lands from mining forever. We again call on Daines to honor his constituents’ request.

Without congressional action, the law heavily favors mining as it has since 1872. The mining law was written the same year that Yellowstone was established. Much has changed. Paradise Valley is valued for its spectacular scenery, the clean, clear water of the Yellowstone River that nourishes trout as well as hay fields, and for the herds of wildlife that draw hunters and photographers to this Montana paradise. Yellowstone is worth more than any gold that might be excavated or leached from this public land.

Colin Davis, owner of Chico Hot Springs resort near one proposed gold mining exploration site, was invited by Gianforte to testify at Thursday’s House subcommittee hearing on behalf of the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition and its more than 400 members ”from every walk of life, every political viewpoint and every vocation imaginable.”

“While we don’t agree on everything, we do all agree that Yellowstone is more valuable than gold — and that is the threat we’re here today to discuss and, hopefully, resolve,” Davis told the subcommittee in the U.S. Capitol. “The risks of hard rock mining on public lands need to be balanced with rights of business and private landowners who would incur the long-term costs of any mining impacts to this prized watershed.”

Gianforte and Tester have gone to bat for their Montana constituents who live and work on Yellowstone’s front doorstep. The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act is Montana legislation that needs unanimous support of our delegation to become law. It’s time for Daines to take these pieces of Paradise out of jeopardy.


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