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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Rep Gianforte Introduces Bill To Ban Mining Near Yellowstone

Emigrant Peak in Montana's Paradise Valley. The valley is north of Yellowstone Park near the location of two gold mines proposed in 2015.
Eric Whitney
Montana Public Radio
Emigrant Peak in Montana's Paradise Valley north of Yellowstone Park.

A proposal to ban mining near Yellowstone National Park got its first hearing in the U.S. House today. It has the unconditional support of Montana’s lone representative, Republican Greg Gianforte.

Congressman Gianforte is an ardent supporter of the natural resources extraction industries. Even so, he testified against mining before a House Natural Resources subcommittee Thursday.

“Some places, though, just don’t make sense for a mine,” Gianforte said.

Gianforte is carrying the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act in the House, a bill that would withdraw mineral rights and ban mining operations on about 30-thousand acres of public land north of Yellowstone.

Lucky Minerals wants to explore for gold in Emigrant Gulch. Crevice Mining Group wants to mine near Jardine.

Critics like, Colin Davis, the owner of Chico Hot Springs in Emigrant fear the two proposals would wreak havoc on the local economy.

“I can assure you that God doesn’t make places like the Paradise Valley anymore,” Davis said.

Davis is one of the founding members of the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, a group of hundreds of Park County land and business owners fighting the mining proposals.

“Our economy is based on tourism, primarily. We’re that one gateway to Yellowstone National Park that’s open all year round. We’re talking about gold mining and we’re talking about equipment we couldn’t imagine 100 years ago, and what it can do to that viewshed,” he said.

The House Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee took no action Thursday, but Republican chairman Paul Gosar opposes mineral withdrawals.

“We are a nation blessed with abundant resources, and withdrawals adversely impact the ability for our nation to extract critical resources we may need in the future for military, scientific or medical purposes,” Gosar said.

Gianforte’s Yellowstone Gateway proposal is identical to a bill carried in the Senate by Democrat Jon Tester.

It had a hearing last year but hasn’t budged since.

Republican Senator Steve Daines says he supports the proposal, describing it as a ‘step in the right direction to protect the Paradise Valley’.

Daines, however, has not yet signed on the measure.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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