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Thanks to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle editorial board for voicing support for the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act — new Wild and Scenic River protections for several sections of Montana’s iconic streams like the Gallatin, Yellowstone, Madison, and Boulder.

As co-founder of an outdoor education and leadership school for youth based in Bozeman, I am constantly exposed to the transformative role that healthy rivers play in shaping a teenager’s life in a positive way. The Montana Wilderness School provides empowering expeditionary backcountry courses to youth that foster personal growth and cultivate a conservation ethic. We have the privilege of operating on Montana’s first Wild and Scenic River, the Missouri River Breaks; we also lead our students on multi-day packrafting adventures through the whitewater rapids of the Upper Yellowstone, a section of river proposed as Wild and Scenic in the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act. Protecting this section of the Yellowstone River is critical to future generations' recreational and educational opportunities.

One of the benefits of working with teenage youth is they often don't see conservation of our public lands and rivers through a political partisan lens. Clean water and free-flowing rivers are worth protecting in their minds because it’s the morally right thing to do; they realize that these places will not remain in good health without proper human stewardship. One of the many things that is inspiring about working with Montana youth is that many of them are eager to act to protect their wild river heritage. We need that same kind of leadership from our entire congressional delegation.

It’s time for Sen. Daines and Rep. Rosendale to join Sen. Tester in sponsoring and passing the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act. Let’s keep partisanship out of river conservation in Montana and support future generations’ opportunity to share our experience of Montana’s treasured rivers.

Josh Olsen


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