President signs Protection Act into law

By: 
Johnathan Hettinger —
Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Sen. Steve Daines poses with a pen President Donald Trump used to sign the public lands package into law on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo courtesy of Steve Daines)

A permanent ban on mining in 30,000 acres of Custer Gallatin National Forest is now law, the culmination of years of effort by local business owners and supporters.

President Donald Trump signed the Natural Resources Management Act, a public lands package of bills that includes the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act and the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, on Tuesday morning. Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte were present for the bill signing.

“March 12, 2019 will forever live in the hearts of the local businesses and communities of the Paradise Valley,” said Chico Hot Springs owner Colin Davis in a statement. “The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act is as much about the people who live here, as it is about the forests, the mountains, and the river that runs through the heart of it all. This legislation reflects the hearts of the people who make this part of Montana home, and we are grateful Montana’s delegation pushed it over the finish line.”   

The public lands package had widespread support, passing the U.S. House on Feb. 26 by a vote of 363-62. The bill also passed the U.S. Senate 92-8 on Feb. 13.

All three members of Montana’s delegation — Democrat Sen. Jon Tester, Daines and Gianforte — voted for the bill.

The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act was originally introduced in April 2017 by Tester, after more than 400 local business owners came together to form the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition and asked Tester to stop two proposed gold mines on public lands. Gianforte later introduced the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In November 2016, then-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced a two-year moratorium of mining rights in the area, which was followed up by a 20-year moratorium announced by then-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in October.

Each of the two proposed gold mines — Lucky Minerals at Emigrant Gulch and Crevice Mountain Mining Company near Jardine, on the northern border of Yellowstone National Park — have mining claims on private land, but this bill would not allow them to expand onto surrounding public lands.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund gives money toward state grants and federal public lands acquisition projects through money the federal government generates from offshore drilling fees. The fund has helped Livingston construct its splash park, soccer fields and Sacajawea Park.

Though the fund is now permanently reauthorized, the funding still has to be approved. Trump’s proposed budget released Monday does not allocate money toward the fund, which is authorized up to $900 million.

 

Celebration planned at Chico Hot Springs

The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition will host a community event at Chico Hot Springs at 3 p.m. Monday to celebrate permanent protection for 30,000 acres of Custer Gallatin National Forest.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature remarks from Sen. Jon Tester, Chico Hot Springs owner Colin Davis — who founded the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition — and other elected officials and business coalition members.

RSVP to Karrie Kahle at yellowstonegatewaybusiness@gmail.com.