By Montana Grant

Posted: May 12, 2022

Several local environmental groups are working together to protect our precious watersheds from future exploitation, pollution, and development. Cottonwood Environmental Law Center and Gallatin Wildlife Association and Montana Rivers are behind this initiative. 

This proposed and controversial ballot initiative must gather 30,000 signatures from registered Montana voters by June 17 to get this initiative onto this falls ballot.

Their goal is to designate the Gallatin River from the border of Yellowstone Park to Spanish Creek, and the Madison River from Hegben Lake to Ennis as “Outstanding Resource Waters”. This would make over 100 miles of these watersheds eligible to be protected with the highest pollution protections available from state laws. These protections become more important as development at Big Sky and SW Montana are impacting water quality, resource access, and wellness. 

Other political groups, politicians, and conservation groups are lining up to fight imitative 191. They feel a more collaborative approach is needed. As these well-meaning advocates argue and debate these protections, more public access is being lost and over exploited.

Gallatin River waters below Big Sky are already being abused with increased sewage dumps from the wealthy resort. Green algae cover the rocks along the western banks of the Gallatin downstream of the Big Sky dump station. Glamping, agriculture dewatering, and overfishing are also taking their toll. Development and exploitation are the death of so many wonderful, wild places. 

Trout Unlimited does not support this Outstanding Resource Water designation. The Montana State Attorney General is more interested in protecting private lands and waters. The many tributaries to these waters are on private lands. Legal experts are worried about how existing procedures and paperwork are being impacted. Farmers insist on their legal rights to all the water they may need.

If Montana is to protect and conserve our wonderful watersheds, everyone needs to get into the same boat!

Montana Grant

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