This morning at Sage Lodge in Pray, MT, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order to remove mineral rights from two proposed gold mines on the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park, protecting the environmental and economic health of the Paradise Valley and its local communities.
“We could not be happier with Secretary Zinke’s decision to protect the true source of economic value to the communities of the Yellowstone Gateway,” said Ben Bulis, AFFTA president. “Both he and our elected Montana representatives listened to the hundreds of local businesses and thousands of people who rely on this region’s clean water and unspoiled lands—both public and private—to make their living, and chose to ensure the viability of that livelihood.”
Prior to the order, two industrial-scale gold mines were proposed near Emigrant Gulch and Crevice Mountain along the Upper Yellowstone River. Opponents of the mines, including AFFTA, have long held the position that mining in that area could introduce toxic pollutants such as arsenic and lead to clean water sources, which in turn could risk the health of fisheries and negatively impact local tourism-based communities and businesses that rely upon our cherished Yellowstone River.
Tourism brought $196 million into Park County in 2014, with fishing in the Upper Yellowstone River alone fueling $70 million of that total. 2015 saw record-breaking numbers of people visiting Yellowstone National Park*. And 2016’s economic numbers are expected to be even stronger. “The importance of Secretary Zinke’s decision to respect and preserve the outdoor heritage and way of life for thousands in Southwest Montana cannot be understated,” said Bulis. “It reinforces that the consistently growing value of outdoor-related economies is deserving of significant consideration.”
* Numbers based on a summary by the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition of a study by Dr. Larry Swanson, economist and director of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana, entitled ‘Key Trends, Dependencies, Strengths and Vulnerabilities in Park County, Montana, and its Area Economy’.