Their View

Bipartisan land package gives hope
Tuesday, March 12, 2019

As Americans stress over a dysfunctional government in Washington, at least Montanans have something to celebrate: a bipartisan effort to protect land north of Yellowstone from mining.

The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act was folded into a much larger Natural Resource Management Act through the cooperative efforts of the state’s congressional delegation: Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte, both Republicans, and Democrat Sen. Jon Tester. The bill also makes permanent the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has been an important source of funding for public recreation access in Montana. The entire measure garnered overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and Senate. And President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

Also to be celebrated are the efforts of diverse interests in Paradise Valley and Livingston, which came together to advocate for the mining ban. The ban on mining on 30,000 acres of public land north of the park is widely believed to make two mining proposals there no longer financially viable. The ban is critical to maintaining environmental and scenic integrity of Paradise Valley — a major gateway to Yellowstone.

It is a rare win in environmental efforts to curb destructive mining practices on public lands, which are still largely governed by a nearly 150-year federal old law. The ban acknowledges there are some places that just are not appropriate for large scale mining and its environmental consequences.

The LWCF gets revenue from offshore drilling royalties. Those funds are distributed across the nation for conservation projects. In Montana, the money has been used to secure fishing access sites and even city parks. Money for the LWCF still must be secured through the appropriations process. The Montana delegation is strongly encouraged to advocate for the maximum appropriation for the fund.

This success is a bright spot in an otherwise divisive and hostile atmosphere in D.C. It proves there are areas where both parties can come together when common interests are found. Let’s hope it serves as an example for potential successes and leads to other areas of cooperation on constructive legislation. — Bozeman Daily Chronicle