Two weeks ago we celebrated a huge victory for southwest Montana when U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke finalized a mining prohibition, also known as a mineral withdrawal, on 30,000 acres near Yellowstone National Park. Through administrative action Secretary Zinke protected Yellowstone’s Gateway for twenty years, the longest period possible under the Secretary’s authority. This is a monumental step towards permanently protecting Paradise Valley from industrial scale gold mining. The next step is passing legislation through Congress.
Today, we sent a letter endorsing the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act to to all members of Montana’s Congressional delegation: Senator Jon Tester, Senator Steve Daines, and Congressman Greg Gianforte. The legislation would permanently prohibit mining on 30,000 acres in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness and Yellowstone National Park.
A Quick Backstory. Industrial Scale Mining Threats sit on the Doorstep of Yellowstone National Park.
Two foreign-backed mining companies had set their sights on exploring Montana’s Upper Yellowstone River for minerals. Both companies had long-term plans of operating industrial-scale gold mines in the area known as Paradise Valley. Lucky Minerals, Inc – a Canadian mining company – sought to mine Emigrant Gulch, a rugged high alpine area bordering the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. The Canadian company’s original mineral exploration proposal encompassed an area that would rival in size Butte, Montana’s infamous Berkeley Pit (a former open pit copper mine and now one of the largest Superfund sites in the country). Crevice Mining Group, LLC hoped to explore Crevice Mountain on the border of Yellowstone National Park just uphill from Gardiner and the Roosevelt Arch. The Crevice Mountain area contains several drainages that flow directly into the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park.
Where The Conservation Alliance Comes In.
In 2017, The Conservation Alliance awarded Park County Environmental Council (PCEC) with a $50,000 grant to prevent these two gold mines from setting up shop on Yellowstone’s Gateway. For years, PCEC and its coalition partners, including the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, a longtime Conservation Alliance grantee, have been working tirelessly to preserve the Paradise Valley. Among other things, PCEC and GYC’s steadfast work helped launch a Business Coalition, empowering bipartisan community members to lead the mining opposition. This business coalition now comprises more than 400 Montana businesses that depend on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as the foundation of their sustainable economies. Largely because of this coalition, Montana’s entire Congressional delegation now supports a mining prohibition, known as a mineral withdrawal, for the area. Senator Tester introduced the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act in April, 2017 and eight months later Congressman Gianforte introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
The Quest for Permanent Protection.
Moving the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act through Congress would make the Department of the Interior’s 20-year withdrawal permanent. The bill would permanently protect 30,000 acres of National Forest Lands adjacent to the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness and Yellowstone National Park from industrial scale gold mining. Both the House and Senate bills have passed through appropriate committees and are poised to be attached to a larger public lands bill during the post-election “lame-duck” session of Congress.
Things are looking up for paradise valley! But we haven’t crossed the finish like just yet.
Want to take action for Yellowstone’s Gateway?
Call Senator Tester – (202) 224-2644 – and thank him for his continued dedication to preserving Yellowstone’s Gateway, and encourage him to do all he can to get his Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act across the finish line before the end of the year.
Many of our members have been advocating on behalf of Yellowstone’s Gateway. Notably Ruffwear’s awesome feature story and Patagonia’s recent blog post.
Learn more about our grantees working on the ground in Montana, below:
About Park County Environment Council
PCEC is a nonprofit community organization that aims to protect and enhance the quality of life in Park County, Montana. PCEC’s vision is to create resilient ecosystems, communities and economies in Park County by advocating for open lands, clean air and water.
About Greater Yellowstone Coalition
The Greater Yellowstone Coalition works with people to protect the lands, waters and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This vast ecosystem includes twenty million acres of wild country that includes Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, five national forests, five national wildlife refuges, and state and private lands in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. This unique region supports one of the last intact ecosystems in the world’s temperate zones, with all of the native wildlife species and wild nature working as it should. We are the on-the-ground advocates for conservation, sound science and protective management of the world’s first national park and the wildlands that surround it.
Note: The Conservation Alliance has not funded GYC’s work to protect the Yellowstone Gateway from mineral extraction, however we have funded a variety of wild place protection campaigns in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017.