What has become a years-long effort to designate East Rosebud Creek a federal wild and scenic waterway was reignited again earlier this year when Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines again introduced legislation that would bestow the designation on 20 miles of this pristine stream flowing from the east side of Beartooth Mountains.

But as time for action in this Congress nears its end, the measure awaits action on the part of Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte. Though he has voiced support for protecting the East Rosebud as recently as this past summer, he has yet to introduce a companion measure in the House that would help spur action on the proposal.

The East Rosebud is a highly popular recreation area with hikers, kayakers, fisherman and campers. There have been multiple proposals to dam the creek for electricity production. Giving the creek the wild and scenic designation would protect it from that kind of development.

Gianforte’s hesitance to propose the measure in the House is perplexing given that the political benefits for him seem to far outweigh the downsides. More than 30 Red Lodge area businesses — along with some 300 statewide — support the designation, along with adjacent landowners, area homeowners’ associations, many recreational groups and regional Indian tribes.

Earlier efforts to protect the stream enjoyed bipartisan support from Democrats Tester and then-Sen. John Walsh, along with Republican Daines when he served in the House and former Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, who now serves as secretary of Interior in the Trump administration.

With that kind of historical backing it should be easy for Gianforte to get on board. But he has yet to introduce the legislation.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was enacted in 1968, and yet of the more than 170,000 miles of Montana rivers and streams, less than one-half of 1 percent enjoy its protection and none have been designated since 1976.

Certainly Gianforte would agree there are stretches of water in this state that deserve this protection. The East Rosebud is a good place to start.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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