Tester introduces legislation to permanently protect park doorstep

by Livingston Enterprise

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester today introduced legislation to protect Montana’s outdoor economy and clean water near Yellowstone National Park.

Tester’s Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act permanently withdraws federal mineral rights on 30,000 acres of public land in the Custer Gallatin National Forest adjacent to the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness and Yellowstone National Park, and it eliminates the ability for proposed mines to expand onto unclaimed public land, a Tester news release said.

“Hundreds of businesses and local residents support this collaborative legislation because it protects jobs and preserves our outdoor way of life,” Tester said in the release. “Responsible natural resource development plays an important role in Montana’s economy, but there are simply some places where you just should not dig or drill, and the doorstep of Yellowstone Park is one of those places.”

Tester’s bill expands the Interior Department’s two-year prohibition on new mineral rights claims on land just north of Yellowstone Park.

For two years, Tester has met with local residents and small-business owners to build collaborative legislation that prevents mines from expanding onto public land in the region, the release said. Withdrawals of mineral rights has no impact to public access or recreation on public land.

Yellowstone National Park visitors spent an average of $196 million in Park County in 2014 that helped create and sustain nearly 3,000 jobs, according to the release. More than 4 million people have visited Yellowstone National Park for two years in a row.

Tester was joined by Colin Davis, owner of Chico Hot Springs Resort, Tracy Raich, owner of Raich Montana Properties, and K.C. Walsh, president of Simms Fishing Products in announcing the legislation.

“It’s obvious that Sen Tester is sensitive to our unique situation,” Davis said in the release. “Senator Tester is making a decision based on the support and overwhelming will of the community that public lands in the corridor to Yellowstone National Park and the Yellowstone River are worthy of protection, for future generations and for the local economy.”

“The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition is a diverse group of Montana businesses and landowners,” Raich stated in the release. “We are advocates of property rights. We are not anti-mining. We understand that there are places to mine, but the door step of Yellowstone National Park isn’t one of them. The spectacular public lands, agricultural heritage, clean rivers and streams surrounding this area give the region a competitive advantage. The lifeblood of our economy is tied to these high-quality natural resources. Our ‘ask’ is for our representatives in Montana and Washington, D.C., to come together in a bipartisan way to find a lasting solution to protect our community and our nation’s first National Park. We are grateful that Senator Tester is taking the first critical step by introducing this bill.”

Local businesses and residents praised Tester’s leadership to protect the local economy and outdoor way of life.

“Protecting the pristine environment of the Paradise Valley is critical not only to recreation, but to the entire business ecosystem of the area,” Andrew Field, president of Livingston’s Printingforless.com said in the release. “Our ability to attract and retain world class talent depends on the amenities available to our employees and their families, and the greatest amenity of all is the natural beauty of the Yellowstone area.”