Tester Introduces Legislation to Permanently Protect Doorstep of Yellowstone Park

Local Businesses and Families Praise Senator's Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator 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.

“Hundreds of businesses and local residents support this collaborative legislation because it protects jobs and preserves our outdoor way of life,” Tester said. “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. 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. 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. 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,” said Colin Davis, Owner of Chico Hot Springs Resort.

“The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition is a diverse group of Montana businesses and landowners,” said Tracy Raich, Owner of Raich Montana Properties. “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 DC to come together in a bi-partisan 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.”

“On behalf of all our employees, our retail partners and the state of Montana, I thank Senator Tester for what he’s doing with this bill,” said K.C. Walsh, President of Simms Fishing Products. “The Yellowstone is one of the critical rivers to our business and one of the most important in the state of Montana. There are plenty of places to develop mines but this isn’t one of them.”

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,” said Andrew Field, Yellowstone Founder and President of Livingston’s Printingforless.com. “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.”

“I’ve been helping clients fish the Yellowstone for nearly 20 years. My business is deeply tied to the continued health of the local environment and my industry is a large part of the Paradise Valley economy,” said Eric Adams, owner of Montana Fly Fishing Guides, LLC. “This bill will protect the longevity of our business and it will protect the Yellowstone River for all of us, forever.”

“I’ve spent almost every fall for the past two decades pursuing elk in the mountains around Yellowstone,” said Ryan Smith, Bozeman small business owner and avid outdoorsman. “Many of my wildest experiences in the woods have occurred in the Paradise Valley – watching an adult grizzly bear bury an elk carcass, seeing a mother bobcat with three large kittens hunt and play right in front of me, having a pack of wolves surround my camp at night and howl from all sides. This bill will protect our access to these public lands, and it will keep gold mines from tearing up good elk habitat.”

“As private land and business owners in Emigrant Gulch, my family really appreciates how Senator Tester, along with Secretary Zinke, Montana Legislature House member Alan Redfield, past County Commissioner Marty Malone, and Montana House candidate Greg Gianforte, all did their own research, looked at the issue thoughtfully, and came out against these gold mines instead of bowing their necks and taking a political stand,” said Bryan Wells, Owner of Emigrant Creek Cabins. “That’s the way democracy is supposed to work.”

“I’m certainly pleased to hear about Senator Tester’s proposed legislation to permanently withdraw federal lands near Emigrant Gulch and Crevice Mountain from mineral leasing,” said Steve Caldwell, Chairman of the Park County Commission. “The withdrawal will go a long way toward sustaining the diversity of our local economy while protecting resources critical to the health of that economy. The withdrawal also helps maintain the long term viability of local public finance revenues while respecting the integrity of property rights.”

“This bill represents a huge victory for the residents in Park County that have fought hard to protect our jobs, our way of life and our public lands,” said Karrie Kahle, Chico Hot Springs Special Events Coordinator. “We demonstrated that a well-organized local community can win and proved that our voices matter. We were heard from Livingston, Montana all the way to Washington D.C. The fight is not over yet. Please stand with us as we prove to all that Yellowstone is more valuable than gold!”

“Whether you are a rancher, a farmer, a fisherman, or restaurant owner, the residents of Park County depend upon clean water for their livelihoods,” said Dan Vermillion, owner of Sweetwater Travel Company. “Agriculture and tourism represent a huge portion of Park County’s economy, fueling small businesses and employing hundreds of people in Yellowstone’s gateway. Industrial gold mining will threaten the clean water that is the foundation of our economy. Thank you, Senator Tester, for standing up for the residents of Park County who fear that their businesses will be destroyed by the proposed industrial gold mining projects in Paradise Valley. Montana’s clean water is too important and too irreplaceable to be threatened by foreign investors looking to make a quick buck at our expense.”

“Fly Fishers International believes that conservation of fishes and their habitats is fundamental to our opportunities and those of our children to fly fish,” said Len Zickler, President and CEO of Fly Fishers International. “We support the Department of Interior’s effort to withdraw the public lands surrounding Yellowstone Park from mining and hope that becomes a permanent restriction. We applaud Senator Tester for introducing legislation that will accomplish that goal.”

“Our National Parks and the lands that surround them are crucial pieces of Montana’s economy,” said Marne Hayes, Executive Director of Businesses for Montana’s Outdoors. “We thank Senator Tester for taking the lead on this legislation to permanently protect the communities and landscapes that border Yellowstone National Park, and for the recognition of our outdoors as a business asset to so many in the gateway communities and beyond.”

“Senator Tester understands that a clean river is worth a whole lot more to this community than a little bit of gold. Millions of visitors come every year to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to experience the pristine land and water, and marvel at the abundance of fish and wildlife,” said Sean Blaine, member of the Montana Wildlife Federation. “Whether you are fly fisherman, a hiker or a birder, this area offers a unique experience unlike any on Earth. Senator Tester’s bill will help ensure that future generations will be able have this same great experience.”

“The Park Co. Rod and Gun Club is a Livingston, MT based grassroots organization which has provided safe shooting facilities for families and an advocate voice of local issues since the early 1900’s,” said Joey Bauman, President of the Park County Rod and Gun Club. “We support commonsense and common values legislation that protects habitats and promotes sustainable opportunities for families to provide food and outdoor heritage to their children. Much of our community hunts the Greater Yellowstone Area for sustenance and access to the public’s wildlife and the public’s land is a cornerstone of the Park Co. Rod and Gun Club’s commitment to our local community. We are not anti-mining, rather we recognize the value of our local heritage and realize that not all places should be mined. Therefore we oppose potential gold mines in Emigrant Gulch and on Crevice Mountain. We look forward to working with our community and elected officials to pass legislation protecting our heritage while enhancing the public’s right to hunt and fish on our public lands.”