In a win for conservation and Yellowstone tourism over mining, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the withdrawal of 30,000 acres of federal lands in southwest Montana north of the Park from mining for 20 years.
“Access to public lands and water has allowed the Paradise Valley to build a world-class hunting, fishing, tourism and recreation economy. Whether it’s enjoying the natural hot springs, fly fishing the Yellowstone, or hiking up Emigrant Peak, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy this beautiful region,” said Secretary Zinke. “I fully support multiple use of public lands, but multiple use is about balance and knowing that not all areas are right for all uses. There are places where it is appropriate to mine and places where it is not. Paradise Valley is one of the areas it’s not. The 20-year withdrawal will set that land aside and allow the local tourism industry to grow. I’m thankful to Secretary Sonny Perdue and the local community for their continued work on this important issue.”
Two companies had proposed mining for gold in an area near the Absaroka Mountains, proposals that had raised concerns among conservationists, who worry about the pollution caused by mining, and Montana tourism officials and business leaders, who see the pristine nature of the Paradise Valley has key to attracting Yellowstone National Park tourists. In fact, it’s hard to see a special interest arguing for mining in the Paradise Valley: the economic benefits are limited, the potential impact on the environment is enormous (impacting hunters, ranchers, tourists and conversationists alike), and it ruins the image of Yellowstone National Park as part of a pristine environment. Take this quote provided by the Department of Interior:
“My husband has worked in the mining industry for over 27 years and we support the mining industry, but the Paradise Valley which serves as the northern gateway to Yellowstone National Park is not the right location for any new mining activity,” said Tracy Raich, owner of Raich Montana Properties. “We have a sustainable economy which is driven by keeping the natural resources intact whether it be agricultural, livestock, recreational, or hospitality. Thank you, Secretary Ryan Zinke for listening to us and for understanding what’s at stake.”
The move by Zinke extended a two-year ban originally initiated by the Obama administration. Twenty years is the maximum period allowed by law.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of the Interior.