In March, Sen. Jon Tester traveled to Chico Hot Springs to celebrate the passage of the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act. At the celebration, Tester explained that this issue was a no-brainer, people from both sides of the aisle were asking him to stop two proposed industrial scale gold mines on the Northern Gateway to Yellowstone National Park.

The bill was about more than protecting the environment, Tester explained. It was about protecting a way of life for the people of Paradise Valley, Park and Gallatin counties.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Tester, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte, passed both the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-controlled Senate, and was signed into law by President Donald Trump in March of this year as part of a sweeping public lands package.

The evening of the celebration, I asked Tester’s staff how often they celebrate victories like these. Working for a senator with as much public land as Montana, I figured fairly often. Instead, they laughed, replying “almost never.”

The answer surprised me, but maybe it shouldn’t have. The way our community and businesses came together was pretty unique.

The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition—which led the opposition to the mining proposals—included over 400 businesses from Park and Gallatin counties, and beyond. It included businesses ranging from outdoor retailers, to real estate agents, to fishing guides, to tech companies. Some of the key leaders in the business coalition were as far apart on the political spectrum as you can get. But this diversity in politics allowed us to work with decision makers of all stripes, garnering the support of Democrats and Republicans at the county, state and federal levels.

We make it sound easy, but it certainly wasn’t. Working as a coalition with people that think so differently was challenging. At times, it was hard to stay united. We disagreed on a lot of things, but agreed on one thing: our public lands and waters, local economy and way of life are valuable: more valuable than gold.

We managed to set aside political differences and work towards a common goal. Together, we permanently protected 30,000 acres of public land from industrial mining. And we learned a lot from one another in the process.

In Montana, more unites us than divides us, but too often, we focus on the divisions. I recognize that not every issue is as clear as preventing mines on the doorstep of Yellowstone. But we are far more likely to get things done when we focus on what we have in common, and the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition is a great example of that.

The love of place that brought us all together is refreshing, but maybe it doesn’t have to be so rare.

This weekend, a new film by local filmmaker Erik Petersen, “Paradise,” will premiere at the Banff Film Festival, telling the story of the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition and our fight to protect this place.

In January, the film will be shown locally, coming to Livingston on Jan. 9, and Bozeman on Jan. 10.

I hope that you will join us to celebrate this achievement.

Erica is the program director for the Park County Environmental Council in Livingston. PCEC works to safeguard the land, water, wildlife and rural character of Yellowstone’s Northern Gateway through a community-based advocacy network.