Clean bill will keep mines from Yellowstone’s gateway | Guest Columns

We are Bozeman and southwest Montana businesspeople. At Wisetail, a 40-person software company based in Bozeman, our surrounding public lands help us attract top talent, as our employees work hard and play hard. Area fly shops like Sweetwater depend on an unspoiled Yellowstone River, as do shop employees and river guides. The quality of life here is what keeps all of our businesses thriving.

Protecting our businesses is important not just to our bottom lines, but to so many Montanans who’ve been coming to Yellowstone for more than 100 years. That’s why we’re asking Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte why they’ve been slow to take action to protect both our businesses and Yellowstone’s northern gateway from mining. Time is running out for us in Paradise Valley. The Canadian company that wants to drill behind Chico Hot Springs has announced they’ve raised the money to start work when the snow melts just a few short months from now. A large gold mine here could pollute the Yellowstone River. It will certainly bring hundreds of mining trucks rolling up and down the valley. And there’s the risk we know well in Montana – that these underfunded mining companies will declare bankruptcy and walk away from any mess they make, leaving taxpayers holding the bag. Again.

Time is short because we’re facing a looming deadline this winter. Thousands of Montanans across the political spectrum who agree that Yellowstone is more valuable than gold were elated when Sen. Jon Tester introduced the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act in April, to ban new gold mining north of the park. This bill is the common-sense solution we’ve all asked for for two years. It has incredible bipartisan support across Montana, from local elected officials from both parties, to local businesses, to the fishing industry, to entrepreneurs and ordinary people of all political stripes. We need this bill to pass this year, so that mining companies can’t bulldoze a six-square-mile mine at Yellowstone’s gateway. We have just one month remaining for Congress to act. Passing this bill is within our grasp, if all our Montana delegation gets behind it.

The time is now for Rep. Gianforte to introduce a clean, identical companion to the Gateway Protection Act in the House. It is also time for Sen. Steve Daines to go to his leadership in the Senate and tell them the Protection Act is a priority for the Montanans he represents. It’s time to turn words into action. Both members of Congress have said that they don’t support large-scale gold mines on Yellowstone’s doorstep, and now they must turn those words into action by supporting the legislation, and advancing this simple bill through Congress.

We want to be clear: We are not asking either of you to complicate this simple bill that protects both Yellowstone and the local economy that depends on the park. We’ve heard both Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte mention “sweeteners” like fast-tracking other mines, or tinkering with wilderness protections elsewhere in Montana. Neither of these are what your constituents are asking you to do. We urge both of you not to complicate protecting Yellowstone as you advance your issues, whatever they may be, in other parts of Montana. Rather, support and move the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act through Congress on behalf of your constituents.

The ball is in your court. Please stand with hard-working, tax-paying Montana business owners and protect Montana jobs. Your constituents at home are watching your part in how events unfold.

Ali Knapp is the president, Wisetail in Bozeman; Dan Gigone is the owner of the Sweetwater Fly Shop in Livingston; Serena Rundberg, is the co-Proprietor of Inspired Madness (Nova Café, Feed Café, Lot G Café, Tart), in Bozeman; Bill Stoddart, is the founder and president of NorthFork Financial in Bozeman.