Tester introduces bill to protect Montana’s water, fishing heritage

Bipartisan measure will bring Montanans together to manage watersheds

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today introduced a measure that will help protect Montana's streams, rivers and famous fishing heritage for generations by encouraging Montanans to work together.

Tester teamed up with Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, to write the legislation.  The bill will offer grants to small groups of people who agree to work with each other to manage Montana's water resources.  The groups will also raise private money, reducing the need for additional federal spending.

The idea, Tester said, is to "give folks an incentive to sit down at the table—irrigators, ranchers, anglers, scientists and outdoorsmen—so they can figure out the best way to manage the streams and rivers they depend on."

"Working out compromises at the local level will result in the best overall use of the water we have," Tester added.  "Water is life.  And if we don't manage what we have, we're going to be in trouble."

The bill, called the Cooperative Watershed Management Act, will build on successful cooperative efforts in Montana by creating a 12-year grant program through the U.S. Department of the Interior.  The grants will go to individual grassroots groups made up of people from a "diverse array of perspectives."

The bill authorizes in grant money:

  • $2 million for 2008-2009.
  • $5 million in 2010.
  • $10 million in 2011.
  • $20 million per year between 2012 and 2020.

"Montana is known the world over for clean water blue ribbon fishing, and Jon's measure will keep that heritage strong for future generations," said John Herzer, co-owner of Blackfoot River Outfitters in Missoula.  "It just makes sense that protecting the future of our fishing habitat ought to start at the grassroots level."

Montana Senator Max Baucus cosponsored the Cooperative Watershed Management Act.

"Montana would be a very different place if it were not for the magnificent rivers cutting through our landscape," Baucus said.  "For generations our rivers have supported our economy and now it's time to return the favor.  Jon's bill is right for Montana because it will bring folks together to promote cooperative management of our rivers, so we can continue to preserve our outdoor heritage, create good paying jobs and support the farmers and ranchers that rely on clean and abundant water."