The proposed ban on mining north of Yellowstone National Park, the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, was passed today by the U.S. Senate as part of a major, bipartisan public lands package that now heads for the House of Representatives.
The bill, which passed 92 to 8, creates five new national monuments, expands six existing national parks, and restricts mining near two national parks, including Yellowstone. All in all, the bill extends federal protections to millions of acres of land and riverways.
Perhaps the most amazing part of the Senate vote, in this age of rancorous partisan divides, is that the measure passed so overwhelmingly and with the support of both parties. Billed both as a triumph of conversation and economic development, the measure now goes to the House of Representatives.
As mentioned, the bill contains the previously introduced Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, which would ban proposed mining projects in the Paradise Valley just north of Yellowstone, near Emigrant Peak and Jardine. The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act was supposed by Montana’s entire delegation, sponsored in the House by Rep. Greg Gianforte (R) and supported both by Sen. Steve Daines (R) and Sen. Jon Tester (D).
The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act would permanently remove 30,000 acres of land in the Paradise Valley from mining consideration. Currently, the area is under withdrawal by the U.S. Department of the Interior through 2018.
A pair of gold mining companies proposed mining in the Paradise Valley outside Yellowstone National Park. Environmental and conservation groups fear the projects will damage Yellowstone’s watershed and ecosystem with waste runoff. Business orgs like the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition (YGBC) opposed the mines out of fear that they will drive away tourists who come to Yellowstone for the scenery and recreation opportunities. From the Washington Post:
“It took public lands to bring divided government together,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) after the vote.
Colin Davis, owner of Chico Hot Springs resort in Montana’s Paradise Valley, said that he and other local business owners have spent the last four years working to eliminate the prospect of gold mining on Yellowstone’s doorstep. Companies have eyed two separate sites, both near Davis’s 120-year old historic property.
“To have industrial mining in both those places, on a scale that would make it financially viable, is really threatening to our economy,” said Davis, who employs 180 people. “This is the heart of the last best place. … This community has come together over this.”