Gianforte introduces Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act

The Roosevelt Arch marks the entrance to Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner, Montana. A bill introduced by Congressman Greg Gianforte would remove certain lands near this portion of the park from mining.   Photo courtesy of National Park Service

 

Montana Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte introduced the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act into the U.S. House of Representatives this week. 

The bill corresponds to the Senate version introduced last year by Democratic Senator Jon Tester. Both bills withdraw mineral rights and bans mining operations on specific public lands near Emigrant and Jardine. The issue arose — along with substantial public opposition — in 2015 when the Canadian mining company Lucky Minerals submitted an application to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to explore for gold, silver, copper and molybdenum on the flanks of Emigrant Peak. 

“As the gateway to Yellowstone National Park, Paradise Valley is well known for its fishing, hunting, hiking, and recreation that are cornerstones of the area’s growing tourism industry,” Gianforte said in a news release issued Thursday morning. “The area is both a natural treasure and a natural resource for the valley’s economy. The fact is not every place is the right place for a mine, and we must protect our public lands and Yellowstone National Park. The consensus of the community has been clear which is why I introduced today’s legislation.” 

Gianforte has been in regular discussions with residents and members of the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, which has built strong public support for protection of the public lands surrounding Yellowstone National Park, the release states. 

“We’ve always said if our delegation could unite, we would stand a much better chance of passing the Yellowstone Protection Act into law and I’m hopeful we can now finish the job this year,” Tracy Raich, a local businesswoman and member of the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, said in the release. 

The coalition formed in reaction to the mining exploration application submitted by Canadian mining company Lucky Minerals. 

Yellowstone National Park recorded visitation with over 4 million people annually over the past two years. The park is a vital part of Montana’s overall $6 billion recreation and tourism industry. Yellowstone Park visitors spent an estimated $196 million in Park County alone in 2014, according to information in the congressman’s news release.

Withdrawing mineral rights on public lands will not impact public access to those lands.

Strong local support for the proposal is a key component of Gianforte’s decision to introduce the legislation, but he stresses the importance of building a coalition in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“It’s not enough just to introduce this important bill. I’ve been working with my colleagues in the House to build consensus and get this bill passed,” Gianforte said in the release. 

Community leaders and stakeholders welcomed Gianforte’s efforts and legislation.

“I’m glad to see our state representatives work on behalf of the local community and people worldwide to designate the best use of these public lands by passing the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act,” Park County Commissioner Clint Tinsley said in the release. 

“Our community has been united in asking for a permanent solution to protect our public lands and the growing economy they fuel here in Park County,” Michelle Uberuaga, executive director of Park County Environmental Council, said in the release. “That’s exactly what Congressman Gianforte is delivering by introducing the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act in the U.S. House. Our community is grateful, and we look forward to working with our entire delegation to get this done.” 

Last week, Sen. Steve Daines introduced legislation to withdraw nearly 450,000 acres of public land in Montana from Wilderness Study Area designation. He suggested the Paradise Valley mineral withdrawal could be part of an exchange for releasing some of those other lands from WSA designation. 

Tester said yesterday in a rural press conference call that he does not support a swap. 

“It’s a bad swap,” Tester said. “The folks that asked for the Yellowstone mining removal did not ask for WSA removal, and I didn’t see one conservation organization supporting it.” 

Gianforte spoke highly of the Paradise Valley lands. 

“A permanent ban on mining in Paradise Valley will protect this natural treasure, Montana jobs, and our way of life for generations to come,” he said in the release.

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