Act reauthorizing LWCF, protecting Yellowstone from nearby mines headed to president

Emigrant Peak, in the Paradise Valley, would be protected from mining under legislation passed Tuesday by the U.S. House. (Sherry Devlin/Missoula Current)

Legislation protecting public land north of Yellowstone National Park from mining and permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund passed the U.S. House on Tuesday, championed by Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Montana.

Previously passed by the U.S. Senate, the Natural Resources Management Act mustered a 363-62 vote in the House and is now on its way to President Donald Trump’s desk for signing.

Gianforte hailed the act’s benefits in remarks on the House floor prior to the vote.

“Permanently protecting the gateway to Yellowstone and permanently reauthorizing the LWCF will help preserve and expand public access to our public lands,” I strongly urge passage of this bill that’s so important to Montana,” Gianforte said.

His commitment to the cause was hailed by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah and the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, who praised Gianforte for working “very hard, especially in December, for the passage of this package.”

One GOP senator held up the bill’s passage that same month.

During the last session of Congress, Gianforte cosponsored H.R. 502, permanently reauthorizing the LWCF, and voted twice for it.

This January, he introduced the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, H.R. 426. As included in the measure approved Tuesday, the bill will withdraw mineral rights and ban mining operations on about 30,000 acres of public land north of Yellowstone.

The permanent moratorium enjoys widespread support from the community. In the last Congress, Gianforte introduced the same bill, H.R. 4644, and guided it to passage through the House Natural Resources Committee.

Montanans welcomed passage of the measure in written statements released by Gianforte’s office on Tuesday night.

To wit:

“Four years ago, Park County citizens set aside their differences to safeguard our public lands adjacent to Yellowstone National Park and protect a way of life. And here we are today celebrating passage of the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act. It’s an incredible demonstration of the power of a united community. We are extremely grateful for Congressman Gianforte’s leadership in the House of Representatives. He took the time to understand the issue and represent us in D.C. That’s how democracy should work,” said Michelle Uberuaga, executive director of the Park County Environmental Council.

“A historic effort has just crossed the finish line. Today’s final vote is not only a bipartisan victory for small businesses and communities in southwest Montana but a triumph for all Americans who travel to experience the pristine wide-open spaces of Montana and Yellowstone National Park. Thank you to Congressman Greg Gianforte for his steadfast leadership in the House of Representatives and to the tireless effort of our united delegation. This is the way Washington D.C. was meant to work,” said Dr. Jeff Reed, owner of Reedfly Farm and Yellowstone Hops near Emigrant, Montana.

“A major provision of the public lands package is permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. During his time in office, Representative Gianforte has worked with the Nature Conservancy, ranchers, outdoor businesses, and recreation advocates to support permanent reauthorization of this essential program for Montana. We are lucky to count Congressman Gianforte as an advocate for LWCF’s track record of success in our state and his recognition of how this program grows our local economies, enhances access, and protects agricultural communities. TNC very much appreciates his support for permanent reauthorization and the swift action the House has taken,” said Mark Aagenes, director of external affairs the Nature Conservancy in Montana.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is incredibly valuable to Montana’s economy and for Montana conservation, recreational access, forest management, and much more. The Montana Association of Land Trusts is grateful for Congressman Gianforte’s steady support of the LWCF and for his vote today to pass the public lands package and – great news – permanent reauthorization of the LWCF,” said Glenn Marx, executive director of Montana Association of Land Trusts.