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Senator Tester Reintroduces Montana Headwaters Legacy Act

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Senator Jon Tester addresses a crowd gathered on the banks of the Gallatin River in October of 2020 when he announced his intention to sponsor the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Jon Tester re-introduced his Montana Headwaters Legacy Actlegislation on June 24 that will protect 377 miles of rivers in the Custer-Gallatin and Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forests—the most significant wild and scenic designation in nearly 45 years.

“Our outdoor heritage is not only central to our identity as Montanans, but a staple in our growing economy,” Tester said. “This legislation, built from the ground up and with the backing of a diverse coalition of stakeholders, will ensure that some of our most pristine rivers will be enjoyed by the next generations of young Montanans, and untouched by special interests for years to come.”

Tester’s Montana Headwaters Legacy Act will protect some of Montana’s most iconic recreational rivers—including the Gallatin, Madison, and Smith—to ensure they are permanently protected from short-sighted special interests. The legislation brings together conservationists, outfitters, and recreationalists alike, and is supported by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, American Rivers, American Whitewater, the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and the Gallatin River Task Force.

“Our family has owned a ranch on the Smith River for more than 40 years, and we’ve made a lot of great memories there,” said Willie Rahr, a Smith River landowner. “This bill will keep the river the way it is so future generations of Montanans can enjoy it as we have.”

“I am very pleased to see that the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act includes the public lands portions of the Gallatin River, Taylor Fork and Hyalite Creek, which is the primary source of Bozeman’s drinking water,” said Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus. “Protecting these important headwaters streams will also protect every downstream water user, including farmers and ranchers, municipalities, industrial users, and river-based recreationists that contribute to Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy.”

“Clean, free-flowing rivers are the lifeblood of Montana’s economy and way of life. By passing the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act, we can hand some of our most cherished rivers to future generations in even better shape than we found them,” said Scott Bosse of American Rivers. “That’s a gift for which they will be forever thankful.”      

In 1968, Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to preserve rivers with cultural and recreational value in their free-flowing condition for present and future generations. Less than one-half of one percent of Montana’s approximately 170,000 miles of river is designated as “wild and scenic.”

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