In the late afternoon on November 30, 2020, Senator Jon Tester officially introduced the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act, a Wild and Scenic Rivers bill that would protect 336 river miles in the Treasure State. For us here at the Task Force, it was an exciting moment to say the least.
This made-in-Montana legislation would designate 39 miles of the Gallatin River as Wild and Scenic, the nation’s highest river protection. It would also designate 16 miles of the Taylor Fork, along with sections of the Upper Madison, Upper Yellowstone, Smith, Boulder, and Stillwater rivers, plus stretches of ten other iconic waterways.
With Wild and Scenic protection, these rivers will continue to provide for the recreational, scenic, cultural, and wildlife values they possess. They will also continue to provide cold, clean water for households, farmers, ranchers, and municipalities throughout Montana and beyond.
As part of the Montanans for Healthy Rivers coalition, the Task Force has worked hard over the past several years to educate community members about what Wild and Scenic designation would mean for the Upper Gallatin. Across the board, support has been high. In fact, throughout Montana, new Wild and Scenic rivers enjoy unprecedented public support. Almost 80% of those polled believe we need more protected rivers, a staggering number considering the divisive social and political environment we’re currently in.
While 80% is a high number, we aren’t surprised support for rivers is so widespread. These are some of the most cherished waterways in the world, the Gallatin among them, and we can’t think of more deserving additions to this system of iconic American rivers.
If passed, the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act would safeguard the Gallatin’s recreational value, an asset clearly on display this summer as Covid-19 sent more people than ever to the river’s banks. It’s just this increased pressure that makes Wild and Scenic designation so important, and passage of this bill so urgent. Pressure on our beloved Gallatin is skyrocketing—we must protect it while we still can. This homegrown legislation would do just that—join us in endorsing the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act today.
To learn more about the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act and to add your endorsement, visit healthyriversmt.org.