Gazette opinion: East Rosebud Creek’s Montana friends in Congress

Billings Gazette

by Billings Gazette

East Rosebud Creek should stay the way it is – a ribbon of clear water tumbling from the top of the Beartooth Mountains down a breathtaking valley of pine trees, deer, elk, moose and bears.

We’ve said that before, and are pleased to see that Montana’s entire Congressional delegation agrees. Earlier this month U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines introduced a bill to protect East Rosebud Creek. U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke proposed a similar bill in the House.

People who know and love this stream along the Beartooth Front in Carbon County agree that they want to keep the status quo. That’s what draws them into the Custer National Forest to hike, hunt, fish, kayak or camp in the vicinity of the creek. Dozens of people have cabins just outside the National Forest boundary or at East Rosebud Lake. Some stay year-round, despite deep snows when the East Rosebud Road is barely passable. Some spend just the summers. Some have family ties to this land dating back more than 100 years.

Like a bill brought last year by Tester and former Sen. John Walsh, the 2015 proposals would designate as Wild and Scenic the 13 miles of the creek from its start near Fossil Lake to East Rosebud Lake and the seven-mile stretch from East Rosebud Lake to the Custer National Forest Service boundary. East Rosebud Lake itself isn’t proposed for designation because private property surrounds the lake. Only public land in the National Forest would be part of the Wild and Scenic designation.
There have been multiple attempts to dam the East Rosebud. The latest proposal for two hydro dams and extensive infrastructure along the creek spurred Friends of the East Rosebud to action.

Because the creek is eligible for Wild and Scenic designation, the Forest Service already manages it that way. However, management will not prevent another developer from getting permits.

“This bill is a great example of folks on the ground coming together and producing a made in Montana solution that ensures Montanans can hike and fish here for generations to come,” Tester said in announcing the Senate bill on June 15.

Daines noted that the legislation will “protect this treasure for future generations.”

“Activities like fishing, hunting, camping, paddling, hiking, rock climbing and wildlife watching help drive Montana’s multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry,” Zinke said when introducing his East Rosebud bill.

Montana has about 170,000 miles of river, but less than one-half of 1 percent is designated wild and scenic. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 was written to protect free-flowing rivers – like East Rosebud Creek — and their recreational value for Americans now and in the future.

Now that the Montana delegation is in unanimous agreement, the three members must work together to get a majority of Congress to protect East Rosebud Creek.

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