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Montanans in DC Urging Protections for Iconic MT Rivers

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Thursday, March 9, 2023   

Montanans are in Washington, D.C., to call for greater protections of some of the state's most iconic rivers.

Anglers, business owners and river advocates are meeting with Montana's congressional delegation to push for the reintroduction of the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act. The act would protect 385 river miles and 20 segments of river as Wild and Scenic, including parts of the Yellowstone, Madison and Gallatin.

KynsLee Scott, a fly-fishing guide based in Missoula, said clean drinking water and protecting the state's natural resources are why she is in D.C.

"I want folks from all walks of life to be able to experience the rivers that I know and love, that I grew up on, how I see them today and, potentially, in even better condition for future generations," Scott explained.

The legislation has faced opposition in the past from Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who said the designations can hinder aquatic restoration, grazing and fuels management projects. The organizations lobbying federal lawmakers this week include American Rivers, Montanans for Healthy Rivers and Wild and Scenic Rivers Coalition.

Eric Ladd, CEO of Outlaw Partners based in Big Sky, said there is strong public support for this bill. A 2020 poll found nearly 80% of Montanans supported the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act, and added the protections are crucial for recreation; a big economic driver in the state.

"Recreation is imperative," Ladd stressed. "Fisherman, boaters, hikers, all that type of stuff, they love the rivers more than anybody, and this legislation helps protect that resource but also continues to give them access to it, which is equally important."

Scott noted the bill is a grassroots effort Montanans have worked on for more than a decade, and added time is of the essence.

"With climate ever-changing, threats increasing, we've really got to get this thing passed in order to protect really, truly what makes Montana Montana, and that's our water resources," Scott contended.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Disclosure: American Rivers contributes to our fund for reporting on Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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