Press Release: U.S. Senate passes permanent protections for Paradise Valley

Legislation bolstered by statewide grassroots organizing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 12, 2019

BILLINGS, Mont. – The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, drafted by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and eventually supported by Montana’s entire congressional delegation, was passed on the floor of the United States Senate today. The bill is part of a broad public lands package, the Natural Resources Management Act, which passed by a vote of 92-8. If signed into law, the legislation will permanently protect over 30,000 acres of national forest in Paradise Valley, just north of Yellowstone National Park, from mining – specifically by mineral withdrawal.

“This is a testament to grassroots organizing, and we are overjoyed that Paradise Valley will finally get the permanent protection it deserves,” said Becky Mitchell, chair of the Northern Plains Resource Council. “Northern Plains is proud to have been one piece of the larger statewide puzzle that kept Senator Tester’s bill alive and, eventually, helped it gain the support of all Montana’s members of Congress.”

“Given how much our state’s economy depends on outdoor recreation on unspoiled lands, this is a win for all Montanans,” continued Mitchell. “This also ensures that the farmers and ranchers on the Yellowstone River downstream from Paradise Valley can expect clean water for generations to come. We look forward to seeing the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act signed into law.”

The legislation was originally introduced by Tester in April of 2017. A House version was later adopted by Representative Greg Gianforte in December of 2017. Neither bill received a full vote in its respective chamber during the prior congressional session.

In October of 2018, the Department of the Interior placed a twenty-year moratorium on mineral leases in Paradise Valley. But twenty years is the maximum period that Interior can withdraw lands from lease consideration. Only federal law can provide permanent protection for public lands like the 30,000 acres outside of Yellowstone National Park.

The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act is part of a larger package of legislation that was passed, including permanent re-authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“This is truly historic legislation that will not only protect one of the most beautiful regions in the United States, but will also protect the local jobs and businesses that rely on the pristine natural landscape of Paradise Valley for their livelihoods,” said Sabina Strauss, a Northern Plains member, longtime business owner, and resident of Gardiner, MT. “We are grateful that Senator Tester has remained doggedly persistent for almost two years to see this bipartisan legislation get over the finish line in the Senate.”