Yellowstone protection bill excluded from spending package

We’re extremely disappointed that legislation that would protect Yellowstone’s northern gateway from proposed gold mines failed to make it into the federal budget bill that was signed into law today.   

 Fishing on the Yellowstone River. A bill to protect the river and the park's northern gateway didn't make it into the federal budget bill that was signed into law today. (Photo Bill Campbell.)

Fishing on the Yellowstone River. A bill to protect the river and the park's northern gateway didn't make it into the federal budget bill that was signed into law today. (Photo Bill Campbell.)

The omnibus spending deal represented a great window of opportunity for the Montana congressional delegation to attach and pass this critical piece of legislation to protect Yellowstone. Now that window has closed. It’s disappointing that even with such broad, bi-partisan support here in Montana the bill was not included. We’ve known for nearly a year – since Sen. Jon Tester introduced the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act last April – that if our entire Montana delegation got behind the bill, it would pass. Unfortunately, it appears that Montana Sen. Steve Daines was the holdout on moving the bill forward during recent negotiations.

Sen. Daines has said he supports the legislation, but his actions are making us and many other Montanans question his commitment to protecting Yellowstone from risky gold mines.

While Rep. Greg Gianforte listened to Montanans and followed the lead of Sen. Jon Tester by introducing an identical bill in the House in December, Sen. Daines still has not embraced this bipartisan effort to protect Yellowstone. He hasn’t chosen to co-sponsor the Senate bill, for example. And unlike Sen. Tester and Rep. Gianforte, who sent letters to their Senate and House leadership specifically asking for the Yellowstone bill to be included in the budget package, Sen. Daines declined to send a letter.

In further contrast to Sen. Daines’ inaction, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released this statement regarding Sen. Jon Tester’s efforts to pass the bill:

“Jon Tester was relentless in this fight calling me day and night to defend Montana businesses and protect Yellowstone.”

Schumer went on to express disappointment the Yellowstone legislation, “which would protect clean water outside America’s first national park,” was not included in the omnibus package.

Sen. Daines has indeed said some of the right things about the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, including telling the press yesterday, “We’re not going to give up on the Yellowstone withdrawal.” That’s good to hear. However, Montanans of all stripes want to see real action to protect Yellowstone and the Paradise Valley. Please join me in urging Sen. Daines to co-sponsor and help pass the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act. Yellowstone is more valuable than gold.

-- Caroline Byrd, Executive Director