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Big Sky Connection - The Montana Headwaters Legacy Act would protect hundreds of river miles in the state. Advocates are in Washington, D.C. this week pushing for the legislation's re-introduction in Congress. Comments from KynsLee Scott, fly fishing guide based in Missoula; and Eric Ladd, CEO, Outlaw Partners based in Big Sky.

Click on the image above for the audio. Montana lawmakers have attempted in past sessions to end medical aid in dying but failed. (vasanth/Adobe Stock)


Eric Tegethoff

March 9, 2023 - Montanans are in Washington, D.C., to call for greater protections of some of the state's most iconic rivers.

Anglers, business owners and river advocates are meeting with Montana's congressional delegation to push for the reintroduction of the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act. The act would protect 385 river miles and 20 segments of river as Wild and Scenic, including parts of the Yellowstone, Madison and Gallatin.

KynsLee Scott, a fly-fishing guide based in Missoula, said clean drinking water and protecting the state's natural resources are why she is in D.C.

"I want folks from all walks of life to be able to experience the rivers that I know and love, that I grew up on, how I see them today and, potentially, in even better condition for future generations," Scott explained.

The legislation has faced opposition in the past from Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who said the designations can hinder aquatic restoration, grazing and fuels management projects. The organizations lobbying federal lawmakers this week include American Rivers, Montanans for Healthy Rivers and Wild and Scenic Rivers Coalition.

Eric Ladd, CEO of Outlaw Partners based in Big Sky, said there is strong public support for this bill. A 2020 poll found nearly 80% of Montanans supported the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act, and added the protections are crucial for recreation; a big economic driver in the state.

"Recreation is imperative," Ladd stressed. "Fisherman, boaters, hikers, all that type of stuff, they love the rivers more than anybody, and this legislation helps protect that resource but also continues to give them access to it, which is equally important."

Scott noted the bill is a grassroots effort Montanans have worked on for more than a decade, and added time is of the essence.

"With climate ever-changing, threats increasing, we've really got to get this thing passed in order to protect really, truly what makes Montana Montana, and that's our water resources," Scott contended.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.