Explore Big Sky: Tester reintroduces Montana Headwaters Legacy Act in U.S. Senate

by EBS Staff

U.S. Sen. John Tester reintroduced the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act on the Senate floor, according to a Nov. 16 press release from Tester’s office. Sen. Tester has introduced the bill in the senate several times, first in 2020

The MHLA would protect 384 miles of Montana rivers, including the Gallatin, Madison and Smith rivers and waterways in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. The legislation would be the most significant “Wild and Scenic Rivers” designation in about 45 years, according to the release. 

Several supporters of the MHLA emphasized the importance of the protection in the release. Kristin Gardner, Gallatin River Task Force chief executive and science officer, stated:  “Protections outlined for Montana’s rivers and tributaries in Senator Tester’s Montana Headwaters Legacy Act would preserve habitat, protect future river health, and safeguard against additional impacts that face Montana’s rivers today, and in the future.”

Eric Ladd, CEO of Outlaw Partners and publisher of Explore Big Sky, stated: “The Montana Headwaters Legacy Act is one of the most important pieces of bipartisan legislation in our lifetimes. The importance of the MHLA cannot be overstated as this will be a generational piece of legislation that our children and grandchildren will thank us for passing. Clean and healthy waterways are as logical as gravity.” 

In Big Sky, the business of tourism and outdoor recreation depends on river health, as Big Sky Chamber of Commerce CEO Brad Niva wrote in an op-ed about the MHLA in August 2022

And although more than 80% of Montanans support the bill, it continues to lack bipartisan support from state representatives. EBS contributor Ryan Strother described that conundrum in an April article

“The Montana Headwaters Legacy Act is our best chance of protecting some of Montana’s most cherished rivers while they’re still relatively healthy,” stated Scott Bosse, northern Rockies regional director for American Rivers. “Our rivers need it, local communities want it, and future generations will thank us for it.”