To Protect 377 Miles of Rivers in Southwestern Montana, Tester Reintroduces Montana Headwaters Legacy Act

Legislation will designate stretches of the Gallatin, Madison, and Smith Rivers as “wild and scenic,” the highest level of federal protection

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today re-introduced his Montana Headwaters Legacy Act, legislation that will protect 377 miles of rivers in the Custer-Gallatin and Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forests—the most significant wild and scenic designation in nearly 45 years.

“Our outdoor heritage is not only central to our identity as Montanans, but a staple in our growing economy,” said Tester. “This legislation, built from the ground up and with the backing of a diverse coalition of stakeholders, will ensure that some of our most pristine rivers will be enjoyed by the next generations of young Montanans, and untouched by special interests for years to come.”

Tester’s Montana Headwaters Legacy Act will protect some of Montana’s most iconic recreational rivers—including the Gallatin, Madison, and Smith—to ensure they are permanently protected from short-sighted special interests. The legislation brings together conservationists, outfitters, and recreationalists alike, and is supported by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, American Rivers, American Whitewater, the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and the Gallatin River Task Force.

“Our rivers are the most wonderful part of Gallatin County. Clean waters and vibrant rivers are the very foundation of our communities’ health and economic vitality,” said Scott MacFarlane, Chairman, Gallatin County Commission. “That’s why I wholeheartedly support this bill.”

“Our family has owned a ranch on the Smith River for more than 40 years, and we’ve made a lot of great memories there,” said Willie Rahr, a Smith River landowner. “This bill will keep the river the way it is so future generations of Montanans can enjoy it as we have.”

“The Sun Ranch is fortunate to be situated on the banks of the Madison River. Alongside our neighbors, we share an abundant love for the iconic Madison River and the irreplaceable landscape it defines. The river is a workhorse for local agricultural irrigation and a booming outdoor recreation economy. The river supports a stunning array of wildlife from migrating elk to antelope, deer and unique waterfowl like the Trumpeter Swan. We are grateful that the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act will help conserve the heritage of this place,” said Charles Goodyear, owner of the Sun Ranch on the Madison River.

“Our enormous appreciation for Tester’s strong commitment and determination to see our resources protected by the MHLA for the benefit of Montana and our visitors,” said Jason Fleury, President of Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana.

“As a business owner with direct ties to the outdoor recreation economy and as a Montanan born and raised in Livingston, I couldn’t be prouder to see this important legislation introduced to protect the Upper Yellowstone and other iconic streams as Wild and Scenic Rivers,” said Dale Sexton, of Dan Baileys Outdoor Company in Livingston.

“I am very pleased to see that the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act includes the public lands portions of the Gallatin River, Taylor Fork and Hyalite Creek, which is the primary source of Bozeman’s drinking water,” said Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus. “Protecting these important headwaters streams will also protect every downstream water user, including farmers and ranchers, municipalities, industrial users, and river-based recreationists that contribute to Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy.”

“From east to west, Montanans of diverse social and political colors have come together to support the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act. This bill is made in Montana by Montanans,” said Charles Drimal of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “And it is built on the bedrock of consensus that protecting Montana’s economy, environment and quality of life is a mutual benefit venture.”

“Clean, free-flowing rivers are the lifeblood of Montana’s economy and way of life. By passing the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act, we can hand some of our most cherished rivers to future generations in even better shape than we found them,” said Scott Bosse of American Rivers. “That’s a gift for which they will be forever thankful.”

“This bill will celebrate and protect some of our Nation’s finest rivers to paddle, fish, and hike, making sure those rivers stay wild and free flowing in a changing world,” said Kevin Colburn of American Whitewater. “The Montana Headwaters Legacy Act is a priceless gift to all who love Montana’s rivers.”

“Montana’s rivers and streams are critical to our economy, contributing significantly beyond just places where we float, fish, and recreate. The reintroduction of the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act is a critical step in ensuring that the jobs and businesses across Montana that depend on healthy rivers are supported for years to come,” said Marne Hayes of Business for Montana Outdoors. “Livelihoods supported by our rivers contribute to healthy communities and our thriving outdoor economy, and we applaud Senator Tester for his work in ensuring these assets are protected for future generations.”

“The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is an investment for future generations and a tool to maintain our most beautiful river corridors across Montana and our entire country,” said Brad Niva, Director of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. “Wild rivers and the watershed need the protection so that these unique ecosystems can prosper for the next century and be an oasis for fish, wildlife and visitors alike.”

In 1968, Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to preserve rivers with cultural and recreational value in their free-flowing condition for present and future generations. Less than one-half of one percent of Montana’s approximately 170,000 miles of river is designated as “wild and scenic.”